- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said he wished the three Al Jazeera journalists convicted last month on terrorism charges had been deported instead of put on trial.

Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven years in prison last month — a verdict that “had very negative effects” on the public’s view of the Egyptian government, Mr. el-Sisi said Sunday during a meeting with local journalists, Reuters reported.

“I wished they were deported right after they were arrested instead of getting put on trial,” he said without specifying the journalists by nationality or name.

Mr. el-Sisi’s initial reaction to the ruling was that he would not interfere in court verdicts, but Monday’s comments signal that he might use his presidential power to pardon the journalists, Reuters reported.

Mr. 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,” he told reporters in Brisbane, according to Reuters. “And the publicity they’re getting out of this I’m sure is not the publicity any country would want.”

The three were convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood by broadcasting lies that harmed national security and supplying money and information to a group of Egyptians.

Al Jazeera, whose Qatari owners back the Brotherhood, said the court ruling defied “logic, sense and any semblance of justice,” Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the ruling as “chilling,” “draconian” and a “deeply disturbing setback to Egypt’s transition.”