Jailed Canadian-Egyptian Al Jazeera journalist faces new trial

The release of Canadian Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy was expected at any moment after his colleague, Australian Peter Greste. was released last week. However, both he and the third defendant Baher Mohamed are to be retried beginning February 12th. Amal Clooney, the well-known lawyer and rights activist, has written a letter to Egypt's President el-Sissi requesting that she meet with him and designated officials to discuss Fahmy's release. Clooney is one of the lawyers representing Fahmy. She has had her share of famous clients including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and former Ukrainian president Yulia Tymoshenko. She requested the meeting a few days before the retrial was scheduled. The text of her letter can be found here.

Fahmy, Greste, and Baher Mohamed were all charged with helping the Muslim Brotherhood, regarded as a terrorist organization in Egypt. Fahmy and Greste were sentenced to seven years and Mohamed to 10. All three claim they are innocent and victims of trumped-up charges resulting from disagreements between Egypt and Qatar, that owns Al Jazeera. Egypt sees Qatar as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Clooney noted that she has repeatedly asked the Egyptian government to release Fahmy from his "illegal detention." Since he has yet to be released she wants to meet with el-Sissi and designated officials to discuss the status of the case. She intends to travel to Egypt to meet with Fahmy and requested el-Sissi inform her as to when she can meet with him and officials.

After the release of Greste, everyone thought that Fahmy would also be released but now those hopes seem dashed for the moment. Fahmy, the Canadian government and his lawyers all thought that there was a deal to release Fahmy once he renounced his Egyptian citizenship. He did so but with great reluctance. In a statement after the retrial was announced Fahmy's family said: ""Mohamed never requested that he drop his citizenship. The authorities visited him before the appeal hearing on January 1st. and made a deal with him to renounce it in return for his freedom claiming this was the only way out for him and Peter. It was one of the most difficult decisions he has ever taken that has left him demoralised." "

 Fahmy's family, his lawyers, Amnesty International, and many in the media urged Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to personally intervene as did the Prime Minister Abbott of Australia in the case of Peter Greste. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation(ABC): "The ABC understands Mr Abbott spoke directly to interim Egyptian president Adly Mansour on Thursday night and asked for Greste to be released." So far Harper has not personally intervened though Conservative officials have called for Fahmy's release. The family said the new trial date represents "our worst nightmare, to have to go through another circus of a retrial."

 The family statement claims the general prosecutor is complicating the situation while the Egyptian president and prime minister support his release. It may be that the prosecutor is worried the public will see the situation as one in which foreigners get off with no punishment while the lone Egyptian Baher Mohamed has to face trial and punishment again. The wife of Mohamed said: "It's the peak of injustice for my husband to remain in prison and be tried while his foreign colleagues are freed." Many Egyptians may feel that way. If Fahmy is tried along with Mohamed and both are found not guilty this time around, this might placate both foreign observers and the Egyptian public. This may be what the prosecutor has in mind. Given that Egypt holds mass trials with hundreds given the death sentence and allows security forces to kill hundreds of protesters with complete impunity, ensuring a just decision will not be part of the calculation by Egyptian authorities. Who knows, the court could find both guilty again just to show what happens when foreigners try to influence Egyptian courts. They could even find Fahmy not guilty and Mohamed guilty. This would placate foreigners and show Egyptians that they should never ever say a kind word about the Muslim Brotherhood.

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