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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Peter Greste: “Al Jazeera resulted in my Incarceration by ‎Egypt”‎

Al Jazeera maybe facing its most critical lawsuit as the pressure ‎mounts on the Qatar-funded network

Muhamed Sabry ‎, Sunday 14 Apr 2019
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The famous legal case dubbed the Marriott Cell in Egypt goes ‎back to the year 2014 when three Al Jazeera English journalists ‎were sentenced to seven years for belonging to the Muslim ‎Brotherhood and fabricating news to support the agenda of the ‎group designated as terrorists. ‎

In October 2015 bureau chief Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed ‎Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed were pardoned by ‎president Abdel Fattah El Sisi while correspondent Peter Greste ‎was deported to Australia. The three journalists spent around ‎‎400 days of incarceration and they have all categorically denied ‎in their own defense any wrong doing.‎

Mr. Fahmy had stated in the press that he had a fallout with the ‎network after he met scores of Muslim Brotherhood youth in ‎prison who revealed to him that they had a systematic working ‎relationship with Al Jazeera—news that came as shock for him. ‎Until then, he had been outspoken in court against the ‎prosecution. During his time out on bail he sued his former ‎employer in the British Columbia court in Canada and ‎announced the lawsuit in a press conference in Cairo ‎demanding one hundred-million-dollar compensation for Al ‎Jazeera’s role in his imprisonment.

He accused the Qatari-‎owned network of of negligence and explained that they failed ‎to inform him of their legal situation in Egypt before hiring him ‎and that they hid their irregular and illegal dealings with agents ‎of the Muslim Brotherhood across Egypt before and during the ‎three months he worked for them in Cairo in 2013. They had ‎set-up a make-shift office in the Marriot Hotel in Cairo before ‎his appointment and did not inform that staff that their ‎operational license has been revoked. ‎

In 2016, after his release Fahmy filed a report at the Royal ‎Canadian Mounted Police and told investigators that his email ‎address had been hacked and he accused the Qatari government ‎of conducting cyber-espionage against him and his family on ‎Canadian soil. ‎

To this day his Australian former colleague Peter Greste ‎refrained from critsizing Al Jazeera in public for their wrong ‎doing and breach of contract. Leaked files from Fahmy’s ‎compromised inbox that was hacked twice indicate otherwise. ‎

In February 2018 Greste wrote a letter to Fahmy titled Private ‎and Confidential: Litigation funding – Peter Greste v Al ‎Jazeera Media Network.‎

Greste opens the letter by describing the legal proceedings he ‎endured in Egypt before denying any wrongdoing. He then ‎goes on to explain his intention to sue Al Jazeera for their ‎actions and wrote that network “resulted in my incarceration by ‎the Egyptian authorities.” In the following excerpt from the ‎letter he informs Fahmy that he is aiming to more than one ‎million Australian dollars in order to file the lawsuit in ‎Australia. ‎

‎“I am seeking litigation funding to make a claim for ‎compensation against my former employer, Al Jazeera Media ‎Network. I presently intend to commence proceedings for a ‎claim in tort in the Supreme Court of New South Wales ‎‎(Australia).‎

Primarily, I will allege that before my departure to Egypt and ‎during my assignment in Egypt, Al Jazeera breached the duty of ‎care it owed to me, as its employee, to take reasonable steps to ‎provide a safe working environment in circumstances where it ‎had the knowledge and means to do so, and that the breach ‎resulted in my incarceration by the Egyptian authorities.‎

I intend to seek compensation from AJMN (including for the ‎distress I endured during, and as a result of, my incarceration, ‎for the loss of professional reputation and the restriction of my ‎movement internationally (being considered a convicted ‎terrorist). I also intend to seek compensation for the expenses ‎incurred to secure my release.‎
I have engaged lawyers to prepare my case against AJMN. On ‎the basis that the claim will be commenced in Australia, I am ‎seeking funding to cover the cost of my solicitors and barristers ‎to prepare for and present my case in court. I expect that the ‎total costs to run the proceedings to the conclusion of a trial ‎would be in the vicinity of AUD 1- 1.5 million dollars.”‎

In a phone interview Mr. Fahmy confirmed to me the ‎authenticity of the letter and admitted that his lawyer Joseph ‎Arvay had cooperated with Greste’s lawyers to help them build ‎their case. Fahmy had informed the Canadian police that the ‎Qatari government hired hackers who breached his privacy, ‎hacked his email and disseminated its content to journalists, ‎NGOs, and government officials. ‎

‎“There are countless articles in prominent Western and Arab ‎newspaper about Qatar targeting and or hacking more than 1400 ‎emails of journalists, soccer players, politicians, heads of states, ‎actors, academics, and security officials in an ongoing and ‎unprecedented cyber-espionage operation. Among those ‎targeted and or hacked are American businessman Eliot Broidy, ‎Luis Moreno Ocampo the first Prosecutor of the International ‎Criminal Court, nine Egyptian soccer players, and more than ‎half a dozen Bollywood actors,” Fahmy responded passionately. ‎

‎“Who does that? How can the FIFA allow such a regime to host ‎the World Cup in 2020?” asked Fahmy. ‎

When asked about the status of his lawsuit against Al Jazeera ‎he clarified that network’s lawyers had contested the ‎jurisdiction of the case and requested to set the litigation in ‎Qatari courts instead of a Canadian court. ‎

‎“Dr. Najeeb Al Nuaimi the former justice minister of Qatar had ‎written an affidavit to my benefit stating that the Qatari courts ‎are ‘not to be trusted’. When they hacked my inbox and saw the ‎affidavit before I submitted it to the court in Canada, they ‎fabricated a case against him and banned him from travelling ‎until this day.”‎

The cross-examinations of the experts and lawyers representing ‎both warring parties are set to begin in September after many ‎delays. ‎

The political situation since Fahmy filed his lawsuit has ‎changed immensely. Qatar's only land border and air and sea ‎routes have been cut off by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and ‎the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The quartet have accused ‎Qatar of supporting terrorism and has placed thirteen conditions ‎against the tiny gas-rich nation.

Among those conditions is a ‎demand to shut down Al Jazeera for supporting and promoting ‎the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups ‎designated as terrorists and for allowing members of those ‎groups to continuously appear on its Arabic platform ‎specifically. Among those are Muslim theologian Yousef Al ‎Qaradawi who has endorsed suicide bombings in Syria and ‎called numerous on air for the killing of Egyptian and ‎American soldiers. ‎

It appears from Greste’s final paragraph of his letter to his ‎former colleague and cell mate that he had indeed engaged a ‎lawyer to take action against Al Jazeera: ‎

‎“My lawyer, Chris Flynn, can provide, under common interest ‎privilege, further details on the legal analysis undertaken so far, ‎the status of my proceedings and next steps,” wrote Greste. ‎

Both award-winning journalists have become advocates of press ‎freedom worldwide and had started their own foundations to ‎promote freedom of expression. ‎

‎“We have both been staunch critics of our jailers but to let Al ‎Jazeera off the hook would be a betrayal to the craft of ‎journalism. This is a network that has defied all ethics of ‎journalism and continues to endanger the lives of its ‎journalists—friends of mine---good reporters,” Fahmy added. ‎

‎“I wish they had just played fair and kept it in court, but they ‎preferred to engage in more illegal actions by hacking my email ‎and spreading false information about me—that too has been ‎admitted into the case against them in addition to hundreds of ‎pages of evidence that incriminates the Al Thani Royal Family ‎for their support of terrorism and their full grip of the Al ‎Jazeera Network and its editorial line.” ‎

Fahmy explained that among the troves of evidence included in ‎his case is a transcript and audio recording of a leaked phone ‎call between Hamad al Attiyah, an advisor to the Qatari Emir ‎‎(Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani) and a Bahraini fugitive ‎designated as a terrorist. Al Attiyah responds to the man’s ‎complaints and promises to “immediately” broadcast the ‎government crackdown in Bahrain on Shia protesters in 2011 on ‎Al Jazeera.‎

‎“I will have an Al Jazeera journalist use an alias to contact you ‎and get all the information needed,” al Attiyah responded ‎before the Bahraini man shares a phone number of the source to ‎be contacted. ‎

‎“The evidence in my case not only proves that Al Jazeera is an ‎extension of the Qatari government but it also leaves no doubt ‎that the Qatari courts are under the control of the executive ‎branch and the Emir of Qatar. It would be the joke of the ‎century to hold this trial in a Qatari court---a nation politically ‎isolated and labelled by president Trump himself as a ‘funder of ‎terrorism’” ‎

Al Jazeera maybe facing its most critical lawsuit as the pressure ‎mounts on the Qatar-funded network in the United States as ‎well and not only by its neighboring Arab nations. ‎

In March 2018, 18 members of the house of representatives – 15 ‎Republicans and three Democrats – and Republican senator Ted ‎Cruz signed a letter submitted to the US attorney general ‎calling for Al Jazeera which the US Department has indicated ‎as state-controlled to be labelled as a “foreign agent” in accord ‎with the FARA law. ‎

The Congressmen accused Al Jazeera of producing content that ‎‎“often directly undermines American interests with favourable ‎coverage of State Department-designated foreign terrorist ‎organisations, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic ‎Jihad, and Jabhat Al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.”‎
 

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