High profile journalist Hugh Riminton has told Peter Greste to “hang tight” as the Australian media joins the fight for justice.
In an exclusive interview with The Newsroom, Riminton said he hoped the groundswell of support in Australia would eventually lead to Greste’s release.
“He is plainly a strong willed sensible fella and I hope to God we can get him out of there before too long,” Riminton said.
Australian journalist Peter Greste, along with two of his Aljazeera colleagues, were sentenced to seven years imprisonment on Monday for the act of “spreading false news” in association with the Muslim brotherhood.
Riminton, who was a long-time supporter of Greste and was part of Amnesty International’s global rally for the AJ staff’s release, today voiced his despair.
“It’s an appalling result,” he said.
“I feel deeply dismayed for Peter Greste and his family and for his two colleagues who were arrested with him and have also been jailed. I hoped, as everyone did, that court would seek sense and recognise that these charges have no basis to them and would do the reasonable thing [and] let them go.
“What disturbs me most is that it is fairly evident that there was no actual interest in a judicial finding; it was purely a political finding and that these men are pawns in a much larger political struggle.”
The Ten Eye Witness News presenter said he believed the Australian Government was doing all it could to assist in the matter.
“They’ve got to be delicate in their doings so that they are not counterproductive,” he said.
“There are limits to what they (the Australian Government) can actually do in another sovereign country who are behaving almost like a bunch of tribal thugs.”
To the contrary, Greens Leader Christine Milne spoke with Fairfax about taking a more drastic approach.
Milne suggests that Australia should join with other countries to put travel bans on members of the Egyptian leadership. Riminton labels the suggestion an “overreaction”.
“It’s highly unlikely that other countries are going to unite around that as a whole,” he said. “It makes no difference if Australia puts a travel ban on them; none of these leaders are likely to be travelling to Australia so it becomes pure tokenism.
“To me, tokenistic gestures make us feel good from time to time but I can’t see it having any real practical affect. I think what might be more affective is a quiet, determined, relentless national approach to put the pressure on to get these guys put out of jail. So less of the show gestures and a little bit more of the hard thinking and hard work.”
Journalists worldwide have taken to social media to express their concerns as well as support for the convicted Aljazeera staff. – Report and photo by Jessica Ankomah
Top photo of Hugh Riminton attending the Amenesty International #freeAJstaff rally in Martin Place on 27/02/2014