The Interior Ministry announced that former Al Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, who was detained in Egypt for over 400 days, has regained his Egyptian citizenship. Fahmy had renounced it while serving a three-year prison sentence in order to meet deportation requirements and secure his release.
Egyptian-Canadian Fahmy, who was released after a presidential pardon was issued in September 2015, dropped his Egyptian citizenship following a 2014 presidential decree allowing foreigners incarcerated in Egypt to be deported. However, Fahmy was not released until the pardon was issued, one month after he was sentenced in retrial of the controversial Al Jazeera case.
Mohamed Hammouda, Fahmy’s lawyer, filed a request in December 2015 for Fahmy to regain his Egyptian nationality. The decision to grant Fahmy citizenship will not affect his case, given that his release was based on a presidential pardon and not deportation.
Fahmy told Mada Masr that he is happy to regain Egyptian nationality, adding that he plans to return back Egypt soon to collect his passport and national ID, which were confiscated when he renounced citizenship.
“People ask me why I wanted it back. First, it’s a matter of principle. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I want to come out of this experience with as little damage as possible. I want to report again from Egypt, and don’t want anyone to tell me I am not welcome,” he said.
Fahmy felt frustrated that he had renounced citizenship for nothing, saying, “There is nothing more insulting than applying for a visa to come back.”
Senior officials had visited him in detention, the journalist said, and told him that renouncing Egyptian citizenship was his “only way out.” Fahmy refused at first, but said he felt pressured and wanted to get out of prison. “After renouncing it, they still let Peter [Greste] go and kept me behind to go through another lengthy 6-month retrial, and then I spent 27 days in prison again,” he continued.
Fahmy was arrested in December 2013 in Cairo along with Australian Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, amid increasing tension between Egypt and Qatar following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. The three journalists were charged with aiding a terrorist organization and disseminating false information, in a trial that drew widespread international condemnation.
Fahmy and Greste were initially sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed received a 10-year prison sentence. The Court of Cassation granted the journalists a retrial in January 2015, and the sentences were reduced to three years in September 2015, with Greste being deported to Australia before the verdict was issued.
Once freed, Fahmy moved to Canada, where he founded Fahmy Foundation to advocate for freedom of expression. Fahmy added that his book, “The Marriott Cell,” is expected to be released in October worldwide.