Toronto Star

Canadian journalist detained in Egypt braces for verdict

Mohamed Fahmy has hopes of leaving Egypt after retrial, but is preparing for the worst

- DIANA MEHTA

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 Mohammed Morsi, and with fabricatin­g television footage to undermine the country’s national security.

The trio maintained their innocence, saying they were just doing their jobs, but after a trial that 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, although he said “it would be naive” to expect one.

In his favour is the fact that a technical committee assigned to 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 worrisome.

“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.”

 ?? AMR NABIL/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? “I am a pawn in Egypt and Qatar’s rift,” says Mohamed Fahmy of his highly politicize­d trial in Cairo. The countries have had tensions since 2013.
AMR NABIL/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS “I am a pawn in Egypt and Qatar’s rift,” says Mohamed Fahmy of his highly politicize­d trial in Cairo. The countries have had tensions since 2013.

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