A week after it was reported Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy would be released “imminently” from his imprisonment in Egypt, his family announced Sunday that his case is now set for a retrial later this week on Feb. 12.
The once-dual citizen, Fahmy had only days prior dropped his Egyptian citizenship with the hopes that solely as a Canadian national he would be released, following in the footsteps of his Australian colleague Peter Greste who arrived home last week after 400 days in prison.
Following the retrial announcement on Sunday, Fahmy’s brother Adel spoke with CBC News from Cairo, calling for more pressure from the Canadian government. "The Canadian government could have pushed more and done a more aggressive approach," he said.
And while the ministry of foreign affairs is in flux — former Minister John Baird was replaced Monday by Rob Nicholson — Canada's Minister of State Lynne Yelich did respond Monday afternoon to the criticism. "Prime Minister Harper has personally raised the case of Mohamed Fahmy with the highest level of the Egyptian leadership," she posted on Twitter.
CBC News: What is your reaction to the news about this retrial date?
Adel Fahmy: We are completely shocked ‘cause we had our bags packed, his fiancé had quit her job, he was ready to go. We kept getting messages from the Canadian government saying it’s an ‘imminent’ release. Our lawyer Amal Clooney spoke to the Canadian ambassador last night for an hour and he was telling us his assurances 100 percent from the highest government officials. Some of the Egyptians were telling us it was a done deal, just a matter of hours, days, and today when I heard the news I heard it from the television. I was actually at the prosecutors office trying to figure out why it hasn’t been implemented yet and we don’t know what to do right now because he has to face a retrial and he has to go through all this process again and its just not acceptable in any way.
We have requested from Mr. Harper for months and months that he intervenes personally, make a phone call and speak to the Egyptian president and expedite the process. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Canadian lawyers, Canadian media, Fahmy himself had issued a statement calling for Harper to intervene. You know Peter Greste, Mohamed’s colleague who was transferred to Australia and pardoned — the Australian Prime Minister had called President Sisi at least three times and they have done an outstanding job in supporting their citizen. We don’t understand why the Canadian Prime Minister did not do a similar initiative.
How do you feel about the Canadian government’s handling of your brother’s case?
We’re shocked, we’re really shocked. Because we know the consular team here are doing their best yet it seems that they are not talking to the right people.
This kind of delicate situation requires that the most senior officials in Canada intervene personally and that the ground staff here speaks to the highest authority here.
My brother dropped his Egyptian nationality in order to benefit from the decree but he never requested that. The authorities here visited him and told him your only way out is to drop your citizenship so you and Peter can get out of this case. And then accordingly we were informing the Canadian government hour by hour what was happening — that my brother had dropped his citizenship, that they had told him this, that they have told him that, he has signed the documents that he is now, on paper, fully Canadian, if I may use that turn. You know, we are a family that respects the values of the two constitutions. We grew up in Egypt and Canada, we embrace all kinds of values that represent the two countries and to be stripped of your nationality and placed in that position — it’s either jail or your nationality — it wasn’t easy for him, it was very, very stressful and suddenly he finds himself in a cage again in court. That doesn’t make any sense.
I do want to read you a statement Adel that we did get from the Canadian government today, it was from the Minister of State (foreign affairs and consular affairs, Lynne Yelich) saying “Canada is deeply concerned with the announcement that a retrial date has been set despite assurances that Mr. Fahmy would be released, along with his colleague Peter Greste. Canada calls for the immediate release of Mr. Fahmy.” How do you react to that statement?
“Canada calls for the immediate release” — that’s not going to happen because Fahmy is in the jurisdiction of the court.
“Deeply concerned” has been the diplomatic term the Canadian government has been using. You know the Americans don’t even have a defendant in this case and when the verdict was announced, they said it was “a draconian verdict.” The Canadians were there at every single hearing and they know my brother is an award winning journalist, there was not a shred of evidence and still they were using terms like “deeply concerned” and “it’s a positive development” and “it’s a fruitful conversation” and in the end none of it was making any difference, it was just diplomatic rhetoric.
We’re not finger pointing here and we know who put my brother behind bars — it’s not the Canadians it’s the Egyptians — but we have a golden opportunity to release him from prison and the Canadian government could have pushed more and done a more aggressive approach especially as we have support from you know…. we have 50,000 Canadians sign a petition for his release, we’ve had the Canadian support of the media, we had great support from protestors across the world.
And now my brother has to go through the circus of a retrial. Again. It’s just unbearable. My mother is devastated, we are devastated. We literally had our bags packed. We had a press conference room in Toronto booked so that when my brother arrives Ms. Amal Clooney and him could start a press conference to highlight and celebrate his freedom.
Going back to when we had heard your brother’s release was “imminent”… do you have any sense of what went wrong?
No we don’t have any sense of what went wrong. We went to the Canadians asking them what is going on, why is he not out? We went to the Egyptians saying that and the Egyptians were telling us that it’s going to happen, it could happen any hour, any day, and the Canadians were saying the same thing. And it seems the prosecutor didn’t sign off on it, while the Presidency was very excited to get rid of my brother, Mr. Baird called him the only irritant between Canada and Egypt…
Do you have any sense at this point what your next steps are?
Our next step is to start planning our defense again and hope… that he will be vindicated and we have to fight on and continue to fight this battle. My brother considers it a battle against the freedom of the press and he will continue to fight. We have no other choice.