For the first time, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has expressed that the trial of three Al Jazeera journalists has had a negative effect on his country, going as far as saying he wishes they weren’t put on trial, the AP reports.
The comments by Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to editors of Egyptian media outlets were published late Sunday. They were the first public recognition by Egyptian officials that the case had been damaging to the country’s relations with the international community.
In his remarks published Sunday, he said the case represented one of the foreign policy challenges facing Egypt, but stopped short of saying whether he will issue a clemency. He seemed to be refuting claims that the case is politically motivated, and a reflection of the tension between Egypt and Qatar, the Gulf state that owns the television network. “The verdict issued against a number of journalists had very negative consequences; and we had nothing to do with it,” el-Sissi said, suggesting it was an entirely legal matter. “I wished they were deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial.”
Two weeks ago, the three journalists were found guilty of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and sentenced to years in an Egyptian prison. Last week, one of the jailed journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, tweeted he won’t appeal the court’s decision.