United States will stay on the Greste case, Ambassador says

American ambassador John Berry has spoken in support of jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste. AAP/Alan Porritt

American ambassador John Berry has said the decision against journalist Peter Greste cannot be allowed to stand and pledged the United States will “remain engaged” in trying to resolve the issue.

The US is working hard with the Australian government to see if the decision could be reversed, he said.

Greste has been sentenced to seven years jail after being convicted of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news. The verdict and sentence caused international outrage, after a case which was condemned as a farce.

Appearing at the National Press Club, Berry was asked whether America was prepared to use the prospect of normalised relations and the full resumption of military aid to Egypt – discussed in Cairo this week by Secretary of State John Kerry – to leverage a better outcome for Greste and two Al Jazeera journalists also convicted.

“We’re not going to walk away and the United States always uses every tool in its tool box as effectively as it can to accomplish the objectives it desires,” he said.

“This is one that we’ll be working creatively using all of the art of diplomacy and all of the tools in our tool kit, but we’ll be working side by side with our Australian counterparts as they seek to have this decision reversed.”

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said he will not intervene in the judicial process. There is still scope for an appeal.

Former Coalition minister Peter Reith has said Australia should “not just sit pat” in face of the gross injustice to Greste.

Writing for Fairfax Media Reith, who was defence minister in the Howard government, said Australians should stop going to Egypt. The country was not safe and “by not going, Australians can also make it known that while the Egyptians keep Peter Greste languishing in jail, Australians will not be sipping martinis on boats down the Nile”.

He also writes that Australia should stop funding Egypt through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. “The EBRD should immediately freeze the funds intended for Egypt.”

Reith said a spade should be called a bloody shovel “so that no one is in any doubt about what sort of people now run Egypt.

"By all means the Australian government should go on singing the diplomatic tune to the Egyptians on the off chance they might in the future change their minds.

"In the meantime, let’s face it: the Egyptians could not give a damn about anything we say. Egypt is now a very nasty totalitarian police state and average Australians should not hesitate to vent their views on Egypt’s denial of basic human rights.

"The blunt truth is that Egypt maintains a pretend judiciary as a front for the political killings of their political opponents as shockingly demonstrated by the intention of a mass execution of 180 members of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who spoke with the Egyptian president before the verdict, said on Tuesday “I did form the impression from my discussions with President al-Sisi on the weekend that this is someone that you can have a reasonable discussion with, this is someone who does get it when it comes to the ordinary norms of justice and decency”.

Abbott said that “we have also got to remember that in the end we are appealing to the benevolence and the good nature of the Egyptian authorities, and if we want to achieve something as opposed to actually just be outraged we have got to act in ways which are likely to get a reasonable response from the government and the people of Egypt”.