Parents of Latvian journalist describe ’horrendous’ jail visit

  • 2014-07-04
  • From wire reports, RIGA

Lois and Juris Greste hold up a photo of their jailed son Peter Greste

The parents of Latvian-Australian journalist Peter Greste have described their 'horrendous experience' after visiting their son in jail since his seven year jail sentence.

A Cairo court handed down a guilty verdict last month in the trial of three Al Jazeera journalists accused of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

Greste and his Canadian-Egyptian colleague Mohamed Fadel Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison. The third journalist, Egyptian citizen Baher Mohamed, was sentenced to ten years.

"It was a horrendous experience," Latvian born Juris Greste told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Had we had a small bucket between us as we were sharing hugs, it might have even overflowed (..) with tears and sobs."

Lois Greste said her son, who was "very somber", had been moved to a different prison where he was being kept in a "dormitory-like situation" with about nine others.

"I think it was probably one of the most difficult days of my life," she said of the visit. "We gave him a hug when we saw him, and also when we left."

Greste and his parents discussed their legal options, but Juris Greste admitted they were preparing themselves for the "cold, hard, real possibility" their son could serve his full sentence.

"A member of my family spent seven years in a Soviet gulag and returned, and when we met them in Riga, they almost took my breath away how sane and how still full of life they were," Juris Greste said.

Australia, Latvia and the United States are leading calls for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon the journalists, although the new Egyptian leader has said authorities will not interfere with the justice system.

Further calls have been made to release the journalists after Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics sent a letter to his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Hassan Shoukry.

Rinkevics expressed his concerns on the verdict of the Court of First Instance and expressed his hopes that the court of appeal would thoroughly re-examine all materials of the case, thereby leading to release of Peter Greste and his colleagues.