Imprisoned journalist Mohamed Fahmy’s lawyers are disappointed that Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s visit to Cairo on Thursday did not translate to concrete steps toward his release, they said in a statement released Thursday night.
“We hope that the Canadian government is resolved to continue the diplomatic process until Fahmy is released and can return home,” lawyers Amal Clooney and Lorne Waldman wrote.
A direct plea from Fahmy to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was included in the statement, calling on Harper to “directly intervene” for his release.
“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,” Fahmy said.
“Rest assured there will be other Canadians who will suffer like me as long as there is such injustice in this region,” he added.
Fahmy exhorted the Canadian authorities to continue their efforts to secure “a smooth transition to freedom.”
Clooney and Waldman said that a presidential pardon could be issued any time.
“Even if he is not pardoned, Mr. Fahmy can immediately be deported or released on health grounds,” they claimed.
However, after meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry yesterday, Baird made it clear that he did not expect his visit to result in immediate resolution.
“I didn’t leave Canada with any expectations that we would solve the issue today,” Baird told reporters Thursday, adding that the issue is complicated, but that he wished to solve the issue “sooner than later.”
He described his talk with Shoukry as “constructive and fruitful.”
Baird’s visit came on the heels of a judicial ruling granting Egyptian-Canadian Fahmy, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Mohamed Baher a retrial. In June, the three men were sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organization and publishing false news as part of their work with the Qatari Al Jazeera English Cairo bureau.
The men have been imprisoned for a year in a case that prompted global condemnation as a serious violation of press freedoms.
In what seems to be a response to international pressure, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a presidential decree allowing him to deport non-Egyptians who have been convicted in front of Egyptian courts. Fahmy and Greste have already filed applications requesting deportation.
Fahmy’s fiancée Marwa Abdel Meguid told Mada Masr that she is “cautiously optimistic” about his release, in light of Baird’s visit.
“A year in prison is enough,” she said. “It is not just a punishment for Mohamed, it is a punishment for all his loved ones.”
She stressed that his deportation is essential for his health condition, as he suffers from Hepatitis C and a serious injury to his shoulder.
“He is stuck in the middle of a political war between Egypt and Qatar as part of the bigger conflict with the Brotherhood, but it is a war that he has nothing to do with. I don’t know what we more can do,” Marwa asserted.
Aside from Baird’s conservative remarks on Fahmy’s condition, the two press statements released by the Canadian Foreign Ministry regarding the visit have not referred to the negotiations over Fahmy’s case.
Shoukry said in earlier remarks that the journalists could still be pardoned by Sisi “if deemed appropriate.”
“All options are valid in light of the president’s legal and constitutional rights,” Shoukry said during a visit to the United Nation’s Africa headquarters in Nairobi on Tuesday. “In theory, this is a possible path to follow, but it falls under the president’s jurisdiction, when he decides it’s necessary or appropriate,” he added.
But for now, Shoukry concluded, the fate of the three journalists depends on the outcome of their retrial.