Mohamed Fahmy thanks Tom Mulcair for support during Egypt detention
Former Al-Jazeera journalist thanks NDP leader after being pardoned last month in Egypt
Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy met with Tom Mulcair on Tuesday and thanked the NDP leader for supporting him during his detainment in an Egyptian prison.
"I'm here specifically to thank you, Mr. Mulcair," Fahmy said at a media conference at Toronto's Ryerson University.
He credited Mulcair for "directly questioning Mr. Harper in Parliament for the mild stance towards my case" during Mulcair's time as leader of the Official Opposition.
Despite expressing what Fahmy called "clear gratitude" for Mulcair and the NDP, the former Al-Jazeera journalist did not officially endorse Mulcair.
"I am a journalist and I cannot endorse anyone, one of the problems in my case was the overlap between journalism and politics," Fahmy said.
"You do know who I'm not voting for, that's for sure," he added.
'Betrayed and abandoned'
Earlier in the day, Fahmy slammed Stephen Harper's Conservative government for its "very mild" stance defending him abroad, and thanked Canadians for their support throughout his detainment in Egypt.
Canadians "clearly understood the urgency" regarding his case, but the prime minister did not, said the former Al-Jazeera bureau chief, speaking at an event Tuesday hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, also at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Fahmy added it was "difficult not to feel betrayed and abandoned" by Harper, and that he "could not accept" that the prime minister was not using his clout to help him get out of jail after spending years detained in an Egyptian "scorpion prison" on terror-related charges.
- Mohamed Fahmy back home in Canada
- Fahmy says Canada could have done more
- Canadian journalist gets to leave Egypt
Fahmy was eventually pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but not before fellow Australian journalist, Peter Greste was deported months before. Three hundred notable Canadians penned an open letter urging the Harper government to act on behalf of Fahmy.
He was sentenced to three years in prison after being arrested in 2013 in a widely condemned retrial this year for airing what a court described as "false news" and coverage biased in favour of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Fahmy said he felt more could have been done at the highest level of diplomacy to aid in his deportation.
If you ever doubt that these campaigns make a difference, I'm living proof that they do.- Mohamed Fahmy
"When you're there, your only hope is that your prime minister does everything in his power to get you out of there," the journalist said.
Fahmy added the response from the Conservative government throughout the ordeal "didn't look good," was often providing "cosmetic rhetoric," and that a "more open approach" is needed from Canadian officials.
"You want to know that your government is fully behind you," he said. "This mild stance cannot be accepted."
A senior Conservative source, speaking on background, told CBC News Harper had personally called the Egyptian president and sent several letters to ensure Fahmy's release. In February, Harper's office also said Harper had sent letters to the Egyptian government about Fahmy, but the government has refused to disclose the timing of the letters or to discuss the details publicly.
Fahmy wants more direct talks
The 41-year-old said he started a foundation under his name while in prison that seeks to provide advocacy and financial support for those wrongfully accused for sharing the news.
"It can happen tomorrow to any innocent Canadian," he said, adding when Canadians are in trouble abroad, they need a government "that supports us 100 per cent."
He also wants to see direct talks among world leaders at the highest level when journalists are detained, and a better way for journalists to receive credentials that avoids going through a bureaucracy, which can be a slow process.
Fahmy took aim at former foreign affairs minister John Baird for publicly saying he would not be put on trial in Canada.
"[Baird] immediately endangered my chances of getting deported," Fahmy said.
'This case should be a lesson'
The Cairo-born reporter was also very appreciative of the support he received in his adopted home country. He said he's "grateful to everyone in Canada" for their "continuous engagement" and collective efforts in helping a "stranger," as he referred to himself.
"I actually survived because of your support outside," he said. "If you ever doubt that these campaigns make a difference, I'm living proof that they do."
Fahmy said he made sure to come back to Canada amid the campaign, because he feels it his responsibility to start a debate on the issue.
"This case should be a lesson for many governments," he continued.
Fahmy met with Justin Trudeau on Monday night and tweeted that he and his wife "enjoyed meeting the tireless & inspirational" Liberal leader to "express gratitude for his support."
My wife and I enjoyed meeting the tireless & inspirational <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau">@JustinTrudeau</a> to express gratitude for his support <a href="http://t.co/PGTZPxtSEL">pic.twitter.com/PGTZPxtSEL</a>—@MFFahmy11
Fahmy, who moved to Canada with his family in 1991, has said he plans to take up a position as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia's school of journalism in Vancouver. He is also writing a book about his experiences.
With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press