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Canadian government submits requests for Sisi pardon or deportation for Fahmy: Amal Clooney

Clooney told CBC TV that the Al-Jazeera verdict was not sustained by evidence

Ahram Online , Sunday 30 Aug 2015
Amal
Lawyer Amal Clooney(Photo:Al Ahram)
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The Canadian government submitted requests Saturday for the deportation and presidential pardon of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, rights lawyer Amal Clooney told CBC satellite TV after the verdict.
 
Fahmy was sentenced on Saturday to three years in prison in the retrial of the Al-Jazeera case.
 
The judges convicted Fahmy along with five others for spreading false news aimed at undermining national security.
 
The court session was attended by Amal Clooney, the prominent rights lawyer and advocate for former Al-Jazeera Cairo bureau chief Fahmy.
 
Clooney said in the Saturday interview with anchor Lamis El-Hadidy that she is holding meetings with the Canadian ambassador and will meet Sunday with Egyptian government officials.
 
Clooney said she is hoping that president El-Sisi would intervene in the case adding that "he has said in the past that he would".
 
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has said he could intervene in the case to pardon Fahmy, but only after the judicial process ends. He also said he had not wished to see the foreign journalists prosecuted through a criminal process, but preferred their deportation.
 
Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship in February 2015 in an attempt to seek deportation, and fellow Al-Jazeera journalist Baher Mohamed were released on bail in February after more than a year in jail.
 
The two were arrested following Saturday's verdict and transported to Torah prison.
 
Greste was deported in February 2015 under a presidential decree issued by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in 2014 that allows foreign nationals to continue their pretrial detention or post-trial prison sentences in their home countries.
 
"So what we're very much hoping is that the president will now step in in the way that he himself had indicated he would," said Clooney.
 
"I think it is time for the presidency to put an end to this fiasco," Clooney added.
 
Clooney emphasized that the pardon route would be the preferred next step, adding that it would also recognize that the process has been "unfair" and would mean that the three journalists are in fact innocent.
 
However, she said that if deportation would happen more quickly, "we would be pressing for that."
 
"Every day in prison is a day too long for an innocent man," Clooney said.
 
The rights lawyer criticized the verdict as not being supported by evidence.
 
She explained that the prosecutor at the Court of Cassation, or the appeals court, who reviewed the initial conviction, said that the reasoning was "flimsy" and the evidence "contradictory."
 
"Based on what Egypt's own highest judicial authorities have said, we had every reason to hope that a fair and independent panel of judges would acquit these journalists on all charges," Clooney added.
 
She did, however, mention "one positive thing," which was that the defendants were acquitted on terrorism charges.
 
Clooney listed the four criteria necessary for a conviction, which were outlined in the prosecution’s closing statement at the retrial: to show that the news that the defendants broadcast was false, that the journalists knew that it was false, that they intended to broadcast it, and that the material was intended to undermine national security.
 
Clooney further explained that a committee of experts was appointed by the court to examine the video evidence to see if there was "tampering."
 
For example, she explained, they would look at videos to see if there was gunfire added to them, "This is what they said tampering would be to make it false news," according to Clooney.
 
Weeks later, the report's conclusion said there was no evidence of tampering.
 
"The prosecutions closing arguments, instead of relying on the technical committee's conclusions, said these journalists had software Final Cut Pro, and because of that, we can deduce there was an intention to undermine national security."
 
Clooney opined that the court decided to deliberately ignore their own committee’s findings.
 
She added, "What journalist doesn’t edit their work before it's published or broadcast?"
 
She also argued that the lack of broadcasting permit, which was one of the reasons for indicting the three journalists, is an administrative issue and the responsibility of the employer.
 
"That is at most an administrative violation, not a basis for individual criminal responsibility of a journalist," she said.
 
The court also determined that the defendants possessed unlicensed broadcasting equipment that they used to publish false news on Al-Jazeera TV stations, which are not licensed to operate in Egypt.
 
The prosecution claimed that this news was aimed at harming the country.
 
When asked why she was interested in the case, Clooney replied, "Because it's frightening to see a journalist go to prison for just simply reporting the news. It's frightening for all of us, no matter where that happens. I knew that there was a lot at stake in this case, that freedom of speech is at stake and it's also about the integrity of the judicial process."
 
She also said the case would set a precedent for the region.
 
"I think Egypt in many ways is the centre of the Arab world, of the Muslim world, and I know that its judiciary is looked to by other judiciaries in the region and so this is an important case. The repercussions will be felt all around the region."
 
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