Australian journalist Peter Greste has been sentenced to seven years in prison by Egyptian courts
Australian journalist Peter Greste has been sentenced to seven years in prison by Egyptian courts Hamada Elrasam

Greste family: My son is a journalist, not a criminal

THE parents of convicted Australian journalist Peter Greste have described the "slap in the face and kick in the groin" to press freedom after their son was sentenced to seven years in prison by an Egyptian court.

The award-winning reporter was facing charges of spreading false information and assisting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.

His father Juris and wife Lois spoke with strength and caution at their Brisbane press conference on Tuesday morning, warning that with other people also imprisoned alongside Peter, their words had to be chosen carefully.

"You can never prepare yourself for something as painful as this," Mr Greste said.

Mrs Greste said they learned of the verdict through Twitter and via Skype.

Soon after, they were called by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop ahead of her press conference on the matter last night.

Mr Greste said while there had been questions over what extradition arrangements Australia has with Egypt, it was unclear whether Peter could be returned home to continue serving his term.

His parents must consider whether to launch an appeal to the decision.

"What pains me personally is the knowledge that where he is being held, certainly by Australian standards would be considered conditions of severe punishment.

"If anything like that continues, I'm depressed at the thought he may have to stay in a place like that for the duration of the appeals process which I understand can last many months."

Mr Greste said there would always be governments wanting to limit freedom of speech, but it must be fought.

"To us, it is not just affecting the Greste family. We put it to you that it is also a slap in the face and a kick in the groin to Australia as well as all fair-minded people around the world."

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Tony Abbott described being "shocked, dismayed and really bewildered" by the court decision.

"We will be talking to the Egyptian government about what we can do to try to ensure that Peter Greste comes home as quickly as possible."