Three journalists for the English-language Al-Jazeera news organisation have been convicted on terror charges in an Egyptian court and each sentenced to seven years in prison.
Australia's Peter Greste, the Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and the Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed, were arrested in December during a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
The journalists said they were reporting on the situation in Cairo at the time, covering the protests of those still supporting the ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
They have received widespread international support under the social media banners #FreeAJStaff and “journalism is not a crime”, but were today jailed after prosecutors claimed they had been helping so-called “terrorists”. Mohammed was sentenced to three extra years in prison on separate charges.
Earlier on Monday the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had issued a last-ditch plea to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi that his countryman Greste was innocent of the charges.
Abbott, a former journalist, said he raised Greste's case in a conversation with the newly appointed Egyptian leader on the weekend.
“I did make the point that as an Australian journalist, Peter Greste, would not have been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he would have simply been reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood,” Abbott told reporters.
“The point I made was that in the long run, a free and vigorous media are good for democracy, good for security, (and) good for stability,” he said.
But Abbott said then that Greste's fate remained in the hands of the court.
“In the end, it is up to the Egyptian justice system to do its job,” Abbott said.
“I did my best to put it to the president that as an Australian journalist, Peter Greste would not have been taking sides. He would have simply been reporting on the events that he saw before him. He certainly would have had no interest in promoting the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
Greste and his colleagues had pleaded not guilty to the charges that they provided a platform for the Brotherhood and for Morsi.