The retrial of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed has been adjourned until March 8, bringing more uncertainty and confusion to the case that left Fahmy in prison for more than 400 days.
Fahmy arrived for the retrial shortly after 9 a.m. in Cairo, in his first return to court since being released on bail Feb. 12. He was flanked by his fiancée, Marwa Omara, and his lawyer, Khaled Abu Bakr.
But two witnesses scheduled to appear were no-shows.
"It's another circus of a retrial," said Fahmy, wearing a dark suit and sunglasses. "We have an adjournment. The least you can do is bring the witnesses."
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The second trial was ordered after an Egyptian appeals court threw out the case, after Fahmy had been sentenced to seven years in prison on terrorism charges.
Fahmy, 40, was told he would have to spend the hearing in the prisoner's box — essentially a courtroom cage — but there was confusion at the beginning of the hearing, and Fahmy was called out and spent a couple of minutes facing the judge as it was determined the witnesses were not present.
"It’s very frustrating for me because I don’t have my full freedom," Fahmy said after the court was adjourned. "I still have to sign in at the police station every day and it just doesn’t make any sense."
Fahmy calls again for Harper's help
Fahmy, who shook hands with Canadian ambassador to Egypt Troy Lulashnyk in court, said he met with the ambassador and Egyptian officials, who gave him assurances that they would push for this case to be dealt with quickly. He said to the CBC's Derek Stoffel that he and his lawyers believe deportation to Canada is still an option.
"Our government of Canada has been very responsive lately," Fahmy said. "[Lulashnyk] has been engaging directly with the prosecutor and there’s been better response. However, I again repeat my call to [Canadian] Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper to exert more pressure and have direct request to President [Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi] to deport me, especially since Canada and Egypt have friendly relations."
Fahmy said he still has had no contact with anyone from the Prime Minister's Office or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. He said that he's spoken with opposition MPs about his case.
Complicating matters, the Egyptian court has not returned Fahmy's Canadian passport.
"The original passport is what I need so I can rent a hotel room, rent a flat, drive a car, try to get married to my fiancée," Fahmy told Heather Hiscox on CBC News Network. "I don't have any original documentation and I told the ambassador today, 'Let's consider it lost because Egyptians can't find it, and at the same time [I'm] also walking with no Egyptian ID because I was forced to renounce my Egyptian citizenship.' So I'm caught in this legal limbo and I don't know how it will be solved."
Mohamed, Fahmy's Al-Jazeera colleague, told CBC Radio's As It Happens he is still optimistic the pair will be cleared.
"There is no evidence and everybody saw that in the first trial," he said. "So I hope we'll be cleared as soon as possible … I just want to clear my name in my country."
Mohamed's youngest child was born while he was in prison. Mohamed met the child for the first time when he was released on bail earlier this month.
"It was such an amazing feeling to hug my own child," he said. "I was able to take my child in my arms and put him to bed and help him to sleep. But I missed six months of his life."
Fahmy and Mohamed, both arrested in December 2013, face charges of being part of a terrorist group and airing falsified footage intended to damage Egyptian national security.
Another colleague arrested with them, Australian Peter Greste, was deported to Australia on Feb. 1 under a new law allowing foreigners accused of crimes to be deported.
Fahmy dropped Egyptian citizenship
Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian national, dropped his Egyptian citizenship after he said security officials told him it was the only way he could benefit from the new law.
Egypt's Court of Cassation, the country's highest appeals court, ordered the retrial, saying the initial proceedings were marred by violations of the defendants' rights.
Eleven other defendants — mostly students accused of being Muslim Brotherhood members — previously were ordered released without bail.
Since being released on bail, Fahmy has criticized Al-Jazeera, saying its "epic negligence has made our situation harder, more difficult, and gave our captor more firepower."
The same court and same judge sentenced a prominent activist to five years in jail on Monday for violating
a law that seeks to curtail demonstrations.
After the verdict was read out, chants of "down, down with military rule" rang out from supporters of Alaa Abdel El-Fattah crowded into the courtroom.
CBC's Sasa Petricic said the five-year sentence is considered harsh by Egyptian standards — a decision he said doesn't bode well for Fahmy.
Fahmy said he has done his research on the judge and is concerned.