A Cairo court is expected to deliver a verdict Thursday for the Canadian journalist being tried on widely denounced terror charges.
By Diana Mehta, for the Canadian Press
Mohamed Fahmy’s long-running legal battle is about to hit its climax.
A Cairo court is expected to deliver a verdict Thursday for the Canadian journalist being tried on widely denounced terror charges and as the day approaches, Fahmy is hoping for the best but bracing for the worst.
“In order to survive I have to think positively,” he told The Canadian Press. “But the uncertainty is just horrible.”
Fahmy was the Cairo bureau chief for Qatar-based satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English when he and two colleagues were arrested in December 2013.
They were charged with a slew of offences, including supporting the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, a banned organization affiliated with ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, and with fabricating footage to undermine the country’s national security.
The trio maintained their innocence, saying they were just doing their jobs, but after a trial which was internationally decried as a sham, they were convicted and sentenced to prison terms. A successful appeal resulted in a retrial which is set to end this week.
Fahmy, who was granted bail in February after more than a year in prison, is fervently hoping for a verdict that won’t send him back to prison, but notes that his case is complicated.
“As much as we know we are completely innocent, we also know this trial is politicized and that factors other than evidence are going to be game changers,” he said. “I am a pawn in Egypt and Qatar’s rift.”
Egypt and Qatar have had tense relations since 2013, when the Egyptian military ousted Morsi amid massive protests. Qatar is a strong backer of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and Cairo accuses the state-owned Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for Morsi’s supporters — charges denied by the broadcaster.
Fahmy said there are a number of possible outcomes for him on Thursday — incarceration, a suspended sentence, a sentence that credits him for time already spent in prison, or a not-guilty finding, though he said “it would be naive” to expect one.
In his favour is the fact that a technical committee tasked with examining work by him and his colleagues found there had been no fabrication in their reporting. Fahmy also hopes his legal team convinced the judge that he and his colleagues had nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood.
But evidence that Al Jazeera didn’t have the necessary licences for its journalists in Egypt — something which led Fahmy to launch a lawsuit against the broadcaster — is extremely worrisome, he said.
“I explained to the judge that we had no clue,” Fahmy said. “I told the judge he should separate between the responsibilities of the journalists and the responsibilities of the network.”
Buoying Fahmy’s hopes, however, is a sense that the Canadian government is now in his corner.
The federal government’s support for Fahmy had been called into question after one of his co-accused — Australian Peter Greste — was allowed to leave Egypt under a law which allows for the deportation of foreign nationals convicted of crimes.
Fahmy gave up his dual Egyptian citizenship while behind bars in the hopes that he could follow the same path, but that didn’t happen.
“I feel that the Canadian government and my lawyers this time around have a very solid plan and strategy,” he said, adding that Ottawa has agreed to endorse a deportation request and a pardon request prepared by his lawyers in case he’s ordered back to prison.
Canada’s minister of state for consular affairs said the government, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has raised Fahmy’s case with Egyptian officials “at the highest level” and would continue to do so.
“Canada calls on the Egyptian government to use all tools at their disposal to allow for the resolution of Mr. Fahmy’s case and allow for his immediate return to Canada,” Lynne Yelich told The Canadian Press. “Canada continues to advocate for the same treatment of Mr. Fahmy as other foreign nationals have received.”
Fahmy’s high-profile lawyer, Amal Clooney, said she hoped her client’s “nightmare” would end in the delivery of his verdict, but noted that she was ready to work on his immediate release if he was sent back to prison.
“He has already been subjected to an unfair trial,” she said in an email. “If the new panel of judges again sends an innocent journalist to prison, it will be a dark day for Egypt.”
To get through the next few days, Fahmy is focusing on his return to Vancouver, where he hopes for a fresh start.
Part of that new life will include an appointment as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of journalism, as well as a book he is writing about his experiences.
“I’m trying to move on with my life,” he said.” I want to pick up the pieces and continue with my career.”
Fahmy moved to Canada with his family in 1991, living in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN.
This article was originally published by the Canadian Press, and is reprinted here with permission.