In an open letter released today, nearly 300 prominent Canadians are asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act directly to help get jailed journalist Mohamed Fahmy released from an Egyptian prison.

The letter, dated Sept. 8, is signed by 301 people including:

  • Former prime minister Paul Martin.
  • Former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour.
  • Author Michael Ondaatje.
  • Singer Jim Cuddy.
  • Filmmaker Atom Egoyan.
  • Scientist David Suzuki.
  • Writer John Ralston Saul.

Many are members or officers of the Order of Canada. At least two are non-Canadians.

Fahmy, an Egyptian with Canadian citizenship, was sentenced Aug. 29 to three years in prison after an appeal of his earlier conviction failed. The charges are terror related and widely denounced as a sham.

Mohamed Fahmy

Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was in a Cairo court with his wife Marwa and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney on Aug. 30 as he awaited his retrial verdict. The judge sentenced him and two fellow Al-Jazeera journalists to three years in prison. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

"The world knows that Mr. Fahmy is an innocent man trapped in a political nightmare — that he is in prison simply for doing his job," the letter says.

It concludes: "We urge you, as Canada's Prime Minister, to communicate directly with President [el-Sisi] the need to have Mr. Fahmy returned home safely and swiftly. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be Canadian that we defend the rule of law and protect our fellow citizens from harm."

A copy of the letter is available here and on the website

Fahmy was sentenced with his Al-Jazeera colleagues Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste.

Greste was deported to his native Australia earlier this year. It offered Fahmy supporters some hope he might be similarly released.

Many of those who signed the Harper letter are writers, academics and lawyers.

Others include:

  • CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
  • CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan.
  • Entertainer Rick Mercer.
  • Torture victim Maher Arar.
  • Filmmaker Sarah Polley.
  • Musician Gord Downie.
  • Author Camilla Gibb.
  • Novelist Katherine Govier.
  • Author Naomi Klein.
  • Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Mohamed Fahmy's lawyer Amal Clooney calls on PM to take action0:54