Jailed Jazeera journalist urges Canada to press for his release after Cairo talks

Ayat Al Tawy , Friday 16 Jan 2015

Mohammed Fahmy
File Photo: Al Jazeera journalist Mohammed Fahmy stands behind bars at a court in Cairo May 15, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

A Canadian-Egyptian journalist who is jailed in Egypt on terror-related charges said he hoped the Canadian government can press Egyptian authorities to secure his release.

Journalist Mohamed Fahmy and two other Al Jazeera journalists -- Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed -- were sentenced last June to between 7 to 10 years in jail for spreading false news and aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood. They have been detained since December 2013.

"I understand that the ability of the Canadian government to help me is limited by the rules of diplomacy. But I do believe that Prime Minister Harper could do more to obtain my release if he were to directly intervene in our case," Famy said in statement released by his counsels Amal Clooney and Lorne Waldman on Thursday

"My situation and the ongoing legal limbo that I am enduring affects all Canadians who are in the Middle East because it shows that anyone, regardless of how innocent, can become a victim of the political turbulence here."

His comments came shortly after Canada's foreign minister John Baird discussed the case with his Egyptian counterpart during talks in Cairo that he described as "constructive", yet fell short of announcing an immediate resolution.

Baird said in a press conference that the case was "complex" but ensureed  that he was working toward a settlement on the matter "sooner rather than later."

But Clooney and Waldman said they were "disappointed" that the talks have failed to announce a concrete step towards Fahmy's release, saying they hope that the diplomatic process continues until he is allowed to walk free.

Rights groups and Western governments have criticised the detentions. Al Jazeera has dismissed the charges against its staff, saying the trial was flawed.

Egypt's High Court ordered a retrial of the reporters on 1 January, but no date has been set yet.

But Fahmy's lawyers said a retrial may not "guarantee a fair outcome the second time around."

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said in November that issuing a presidential pardon was being studied but ruled out granting them clemency until the legal process has been finalised.

The two foreign journalists can also be deported according to a law passed late in 2014 that allows foreign convicts to be transferred to their country to either be retried or serve their sentence there.

The case is believed to have stemmed from strained ties between Cairo and Doha, which funds the Doha-based Al Jazeera and was one of the main supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

Cairo has accused Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for the now-outlawed Brotherhood, charges the channel denies.

A recent thaw in ties between Cairo and Doha have offered fresh hope over the fate of the journalists.


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