Egypt’s foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador in Cairo on Sunday after he said prison sentences handed down to three Al Jazeera journalists would “undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability.”
An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced the journalists for the Qatar-based television network to three years on the ground they broadcast false news and incited against the country. John Casson’s criticism represents “unacceptable interference,” the ministry said in an e-mailed statement, adding, “Egypt needs lessons from no one.”
In a statement on the British Embassy’s Facebook account, Casson wrote that he was “shocked” by the court’s action.
“Britain actively supports stability in Egypt,” he said. “But the question today is whether this will be a fragile and temporary stability on the basis of suspending freedoms of media and expression and depriving individuals of their rights in the Egyptian constitution?”
The government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has placed a premium on restoring security as it attempts to build on signs of economic recovery amid escalating militant attacks. Critics say his crackdown on Islamists and other opponents has restored the police state that prevailed during Hosni Mubarak’s 29-year reign.
The sentencing of the journalists also drew condemnation from the European delegation in Cairo, which called them a “setback for freedom of expression in Egypt,” and from the Amnesty International rights group.