John Kerry Reminded of Egypt’s Human Rights Abuse Of Al Jazeera Journalists

John Kerry has a delicate diplomatic road to trod as he calls for Egypt to release Al Jazeera journalists while, at the same time, trying to cement Egyptian support of the U.S. campaign against Islamic State.

The U.S. Secretary of State, who was on a visit to Cairo yesterday, renewed calls for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to address the human rights abuses that took place in the trial and subsequent sentencing of Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed. Al Jazeera first reported that the journalists were arrested in December while covering the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi. The three were accused of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which was listed as a terrorist organization by the interim government. An Egypt court sentenced them to ten years in prison, resulting in international outcry and condemnation of what many saw as unjust sentences.

CNN reported that acting director general of Al Jazeera, Mostefa Souag, expressed shock at the verdict. CNN also reported on Amnesty International’s reaction.

“Amnesty International has said that the journalists are pawns in a geopolitical dispute between Egypt and Qatar, the tiny Middle Eastern country that finances Al Jazeera. Qatar has long been perceived as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood…”

This was back in June of this year when John Kerry added his voice, calling for the release of the Journalists.

Yesterday, John Kerry said he was still concerned about human rights abuses — such as those meted out to the Al Jazeera journalist — after Reuters journalist Jason Szep reminded him of the issue at a joint press briefing with Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry. The journalist was fearless with his question.

“You keep raising human rights issues and Egypt’s leaders keep disregarding you, most notably when three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed a day after you called for their release. Isn’t it clear the Egyptians are disregarding your concerns because they understand you want their cooperation in counterterrorism?”

The full script of the briefing posted on the U.S. State Department’s website details John Kerry response.

“Look, let me be clear. The United States doesn’t ever trade its concern for human rights for any other objective. It is always a concern. It’s an honest concern. And we had a frank discussion today about the concerns that have been expressed…”

John Kerry traveled to several Arab countries over the weekend to gain diplomatic support for a coalition to combat the spread of ISIS.

[Image from Reuters]

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