John Baird's Egypt visit no guarantee of Mohamed Fahmy release, official says
Official tempers expectations for foreign affairs minister's visit to Egypt, denies quid pro quo
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird doesn't expect to immediately secure the release of imprisoned Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy when he visits Cairo on Thursday, a government official says.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Canadian Press that Baird intends to raise Fahmy's case with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, and press for his release.
But beyond that, all those concerned with Fahmy's fate should temper their expectations for Baird's visit, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
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"We're not expecting necessarily that he (Baird) is going to announce the release or anything like that when he's there," the official said.
"How does it look for Egypt if Baird rolls in there and leaves with a prisoner? It looks like they (Egypt) are under the thumb of a western country."
Family hoping for deportation
Earlier this month, an Egyptian court ordered a retrial for Fahmy and his colleagues, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer, but a date has yet to be set.
The three Al-Jazeera English journalists were convicted last year of terror-related charges and sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison — charges all three men deny.
Last week, The Canadian Press reported that Fahmy's family expects him to be deported before a new trial takes place.
Fahmy's fiancee Marwa Omara told The Canadian Press in an email from Cairo that the paperwork for his deportation was underway, and that a visit by Baird could expedite the process.
That's not likely to happen while Baird is on the ground in Egypt, said the official, who stressed that Baird's two-day trip to Egypt is part of the country's regular engagement with Egypt "writ large."
$20M funding for Egypt
On Wednesday, Baird was in the tourist city of Luxor, where he met with young Egyptians to discuss the country's future.
Baird announced $20 million worth of funding to "support to encourage economic growth and empower women and young people in Egypt," said a statement released by his office in Ottawa.
"Canada is committed to supporting long-term stability in Egypt by funding initiatives that offer meaningful employment and a secure, self-sufficient future for those who need it most," Baird said in a written statement.
"Our support will help stimulate economic growth, provide jobs for young people and encourage women's entrepreneurship and employability."
The official told The Canadian Press that the funding announcement was part of planned engagement with Egypt and should not be viewed as any kind of quid-pro-quo to help win Fahmy's release.