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Egyptian President Wishes Journalists Were Deported, Not Tried

FILE - From left, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed listen to the ruling at a court in Cairo, Egypt.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said he wishes three Al-Jazeera journalists convicted last month of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood had been deported instead of facing trial.

The Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper quoted Sissi on Monday telling a group of Egyptian editors that the June 23 verdict has had a "very negative" effect.

A Cairo court sentenced Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed to seven years in prison, drawing harsh criticism from governments and press freedom groups across the world.

Greste's brother Andrew said Monday that the president's comments were "heartening," but that he was not sure if they would lead to a resolution. He said the publicity Egypt has received and the images of the journalists in a cage in the courtroom are not what Egypt wants to show the world.

Sissi said last month that he would not interfere with judicial verdicts, saying the decision must be respected and not criticized.

Al-Jazeera has maintained that its employees were simply reporting the news. The Qatar-based network's management called the sentences "shocking" and vowed to continue pressing for the release of the journalists.

Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed were arrested in December at a Cairo hotel where they were working after Egyptian authorities closed Al-Jazeera's bureau.

Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood since last July when Sissi, serving as army chief, led the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi. Security forces have violently dispersed protests by Brotherhood supporters and arrested many of the group's leaders.