Al-Jazeera reporter calls for Egypt's President to pardon him and 2 colleagues handed jail terms

Australian journalist Peter Greste looks on as he answers a question during a press conference in Sydney, Australia on Aug 30, 2015.
Australian journalist Peter Greste looks on as he answers a question during a press conference in Sydney, Australia on Aug 30, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Al-Jazeera reporter Peter Greste on Sunday called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon him and two colleagues handed three-year prison sentences, describing the court decision on Saturday as "politically motivated".

Greste, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were sentenced for broadcasting "false" news that harmed Egypt in a retrial on Saturday, with the shock ruling by the Cairo court drawing international criticism.

"In the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, the only conclusion that we can come to is that this verdict was politically motivated," Greste, who was tried in absentia after being deported early this year, said in Sydney.

"President Sisi now has an opportunity to undo that injustice, to correct that injustice. The eyes of the world are on Egypt.

"It is now up to President Sisi to do what he said he would do from the outset and that is pardon us if we were ever convicted."

The three journalists were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail last year, but an appeals court in January granted them a retrial, saying the verdict had not been backed by evidence.

They were arrested in December 2013, months after the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Mursi and launched a deadly crackdown on his supporters.

The case has become an embarrassment for Mr Sisi, who has said he wished the reporters had been deported rather than put on trial.

Greste vowed to use "every legal, political, diplomatic and social means" to fight Saturday's verdict, which saw Fahmy and Mohamed - who were in court after being released on bail - taken into custody.

"We will continue to fight this using every available means open to us," he said.

"This is about what this means for due process in Egypt. It's about what it means for the rule of law in Egypt. It is also about what it means about freedom of the press and democracy in Egypt."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her government would "do all that we can do help him clear his name", referring to Greste.

"He's not in Egypt so that could limit the legal processes that he can undertake," Ms Bishop told commercial broadcaster Channel Seven on Sunday.

"But most certainly, there is available a presidential pardon, and we made numerous representations to President al-Sisi in the lead-up to the appeal, in relation to the first trial, and now the retrial."