Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said he
wished the imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists, convicted of aiding "a
terrorist group", had been deported and not put on trial, a newspaper
reported on Monday.
Sisi's comments sparked hope for the family of
Australian reporter Peter Greste who, along with colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and
Baher Mohamed, was jailed last month for 10 years.
Sisi was quoted by Egypt's Al-Masry Al-Youm private
newspaper as saying the verdict "had very negative effects".
"I wished they were deported right after they
were arrested instead of getting put on trial," Sisi added during a
meeting with local journalists on Sunday.
Sisi's initial reaction to the ruling was that he
would not interfere in court verdicts. Monday's comments could be a hint he
might use his presidential power to pardon the journalists, who still have a
chance to appeal against the verdict in a higher court.
Peter Greste's brother, Andrew, said he was
heartened by the comments.
"I'm sure images of Peter in the cage in the
court are not images Egypt really wants distributed around the world,"
Andrew Greste told reporters in Brisbane. "And the publicity they're
getting out of this I'm sure is not the publicity any country would want."
Peter Greste, Al Jazeera English Cairo bureau chief
Fahmy, a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen, and Egyptian network producer Mohamed
were detained in December.
It was unclear how Mohamed could be deported. Sisi,
in his reported comments, did not specify the journalists by nationality or
The three were convicted of aiding a terrorist
group - a reference to ousted president Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood
group - by broadcasting lies that harmed national security and supplying money,
equipment and information to a group of Egyptians.
Egypt has banned the Brotherhood and declared it a
Andrew Greste said he was not sure if the comments
would lead to a resolution.
"I'd like to think that there's things
happening at all levels ... and everyone can talk about it and seek an amicable
solution," he said.
Former army chief Sisi last year orchestrated the
ouster of Mursi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, in reaction to mass
protests against his rule.
Mursi's removal was followed by a security
crackdown on Islamist activists and some media outlets, including the
Qatar-based Al Jazeera network.
Al Jazeera, whose Qatari owners back the
Brotherhood and have been at odds with Egypt's leadership, said the court
ruling defied "logic, sense and any semblance of justice".
Washington had described the sentences as
"chilling" and "draconian" and Britain, whose ambassador
attended the ruling hearing, summoned the Egyptian ambassador to protest.