Mohamed Fahmy case: John Baird pushes for release as Egypt's media looks elsewhere

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird admits he didn’t expect that jailed Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy would be released from a Cairo prison and get on a plane bound to Canada during Baird's two-day trip to Egypt.

Fahmy has served nearly 13 months behind bars

Foreign affairs minister keeps up pressure as Egypt's interest fades 1:01

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird admits he didn’t expect that jailed Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy would be released from a Cairo prison and get on a plane bound to Canada while on Baird's two-day trip to Egypt.

“I wasn’t naive to suggest that I would come and the situation would be resolved,” Baird told reporters Thursday morning in Cairo, after an hour-long meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister.

Behind the scenes, there appears to be some movement on the Fahmy case. Fahmy’s family and their lawyer, Amal Clooney, have applied to have him deported back to Canada, where it's possible he could face the Egyptian charges. He might not, and walk free — but there has been no sign on that from the Egyptian authorities.

For Fahmy, who has served nearly 13 months behind bars, it appears there’s no quick fix. Baird says he hopes there is a “constructive resolution sooner rather than later.”

Egypt’s President Abdulfattah el-Sisi has new powers under which he is able to pardon or deport foreigners convicted of crimes in Egypt. But Sisi has stressed in the case of the al-Jazeera 3, as they’re known in Egypt, he wants to make sure all efforts before the Egyptian judicial system are exhausted before he acts.

Not a top issue

There simply isn’t a lot of pressure inside Egypt for Sisi to free Fahmy and his two colleagues, Peter Greste and Baher Mohammed.

Egypt’s media made a big deal about the case when they were arrested in December 2013 at the Marriott hotel in Cairo, but interest has faded, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on the streets here who thinks this is a top issue for the president and the government. Egyptians want their leaders to focus on making their streets safer and the cost of living more affordable.

With a retrial in the Fahmy case expected in the new few weeks, it seems Mohamed Fahmy is destined to spend even more time in prison.

He suffered a severe injury to his shoulder, and his fiancée Marwa Omara tells me he needs a second operation. She’s also still waiting for word from the prison officials — she wants to marry Fahmy, even if the wedding takes place behind bars.

About the Author

Derek Stoffel

CBC News Middle East correspondent

Derek Stoffel is the Middle East correspondent for CBC News. He has covered the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, reported from Syria during the ongoing civil war and covered the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. He has also worked throughout Europe and the U.S., and reported on Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.


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