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in the Marriot Hotel in Cairo before his appointment and did not inform that staff that their operational license has been revoked.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.”