Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he will not interfere in judicial verdicts a day after three Al Jazeera reporters were sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
"We must respect judicial rulings and not criticise them even if others do not understand this," Sisi said, describing the judiciary as "independent and splendid".
The harsh prison sentence meted out to award-winning Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and producer Baher Mohammed, an Egyptian, has sent shockwaves around the world and caused concerns over freedom of expression in Egypt.
The trio denied the charges and are expected to appeal. Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop said her government was shocked and deeply dismayed by the sentences and would call on the Egyptian president to intervene in the case.
US secretary of state John Kerry said the trial "lacked many fundamental norms of due process" and was a "deeply disturbing" setback for Egypt's transition to democracy.
Greste's father told reporters in Brisbane that the family was "devastated, shocked and dismayed" by the verdict.
"This is a very dark time, not only for our family but for journalism generally," Juris Greste said, describing the ruling as a "slap in the face" to "all fair-minded people around the world".
"Journalism is not a crime, or you should all be behind bars,'' he added.
Hundreds of journalists gathered at the BBC's New Broadcasting House in London to protest against the sentence. A minute's silence was held.
The protest took place at 9.41BST exactly 24 hours after the sentencing in Cairo. BBC staff were joined by colleagues from other news organisations around the world.
Amnesty slammed the trial as a "vindictive farce" and part of the "ongoing row" between Egypt and Qatar, which backs the Muslim Brotherhood.