Lawyers for jailed Al Jazeera journalist demand release for hep C treatment

Zeinab El-Gundy, Thursday 6 Nov 2014

Mohamed Fahmy has had hepatitis C for over a year and there is reportedly no treatment in Egyptian prisons

Mohammed Fahmy
File photo: Mohammed Fahmy, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, appears in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants (Photo: AP)

A lawyer representing an Al Jazeera journalist jailed in Egypt has requested his temporary release on medical grounds, stating that he is suffering from hepatitis C.

In a statement issued on Thursday, London-based human rights lawyers Amal Clooney and Mark Wassouf revealed that their client Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, who is currently serving seven years in prison for joining a terrorist group and spreading false news that endangers national security, is suffering from hepatitis c and needs to be temporarily released on health ground to receive medical treatment.

"Mr. Fahmy’s detention has become a great danger to his health. Mr Fahmy suffers from hepatitis C, a disease of the liver that can be terminal and that requires special treatment that Mr Fahmy cannot receive while he is in detention" said the statement, which also described Fahmy’s imprisonment as a "travesty of justice."

In a trial that was widely criticised by human rights groups, Fahmy was convicted alongside Al Jazeera international correspondent Peter Greste and producer Baher Mohamed. Greste, who is Australian, was sentenced to seven years, while Egyptian Baher Mohamed was handed two jail terms amounting to 10 years. The sentences caused an international outcry.

Fahmy's fiancée Marwa Omra told Ahram Online that he discovered that he was infected with hepatitis C a year ago but did not start interferon treatment then because of his busy work schedule.

She added that there was no treatment for hepatitis C in the jail, whether the standard interferon treatment or the new drug Sovaldi, which the health ministry is providing to limited numbers of patients in Egypt starting this October.

The statement also hinted that Fahmy is suffering from a permanent disability in his right shoulder "due to an injury exacerbated during his detention" and needs surgery.

In October, the Journalists Syndicate asked Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat to release Fahmy temporarily from jail on health grounds.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has said that he legally cannot grant clemencies for imprisoned journalists in Egypt until final verdicts in their case are issued, stressing that he can not interfere in the work of Egypt’s independent judiciary.

A Cairo court has already set 1 January 2015 as the date for an appeals session for the Al Jazeera journalists. 

Fahmy's lawyers also asked in their statement his employer Al Jazeera International to take positive steps in assisting their client and to "refrain from taking any action that might undermine his cause."

Recently Al Jazeera news network has been accused of allegedly keeping its channels' equipment in Egypt for unlicensed several years. The network also sued Egyptian television for allegedly stealing a football game broadcast exclusively on an Al Jazeera channel weeks before the trial.  

Al Jazeera's Cairo offices have been closed down since 3 July, after being raided by security forces in the immediate aftermath of the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

The only Al Jazeera-affiliated channel to have been banned by court order is Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr; all other sub-channels have been closed without one.

Lawyers Amal Clooney and Mark Wassouf from London-based Doughty Street chambers, as well Lawyer Negad El-Borai, the renowned Egyptian human rights lawyer, were hired by Fahmy's family to represent him in the appeal.

A renowned international human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney was among the defence team of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Clooney was part of the International Bar Association Human Rights Initiative's fact-finding delegation which prepared an extensive study about Egypt's legal system and its flaws after the 25 January revolution.  

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