Mohamed Fahmy's lawyer Amal Clooney says Canada has formally applied for a pardon

The Canadian government has formally applied to Egyptian authorities for the pardon and deportation of Al-Jazeera journalist and Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, his high-profile lawyer, Amal Clooney, tells CBC.

Al-Jazeera reporter sentenced to 3 years in Egyptian prison under widely denounced charges

Amal Clooney on the fate of Mohamed Fahmy

8 years ago
Duration 4:35
Fahmy's high-profile lawyer speaks with CBC's Derek Stoffel

The Canadian government has formally applied to Egyptian authorities for the pardon and deportation of Al-Jazeera journalist and Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, his high-profile lawyer Amal Clooney told CBC on Sunday.

Fahmy was sentenced to three years in prison on Saturday, along with his Al-Jazeera colleagues Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste. Greste was deported to his native Australia earlier this year. 

The trio faced widely denounced terror charges and had spent more than a year in prison before a successful appeal of an earlier conviction resulted in the re-trial that culminated in Saturday's verdict.

In his ruling, Judge Hassan Farid said he sentenced the men to prison because they had not registered with the country's journalist syndicate. He also said the men brought in equipment without the approval of security officials, had broadcast "false news" on Al-Jazeera and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission.

It's an extremely urgent situation, Clooney said.

"This is the most high-profile case of a Canadian abroad being imprisoned on sham charges," Clooney told CBC News. "It's a dangerous precedent being set. It's a journalist who's going to prison for no reason."

Fahmy not safe in jail: Clooney

The 41-year-old Fahmy's troubles began in December 2013 when he was working as the Cairo bureau chief for Qatar-based satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera English.

He, Greste and Mohamed were abruptly arrested and charged with a slew of offences, including supporting the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, a banned organization affiliated with ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, and with fabricating footage to undermine the country's national security.

But Clooney says Fahmy has been a "very outspoken critic" of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that puts him at risk behind bars.

"At the moment in Egypt there are many people in prison who are from that group and, therefore, his physical safety may be in danger," she said. 

Pardon or deportation are the only options to save Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy from Egyptian jail, his lawyer Amal Clooney told CBC's Derek Stoffel on Sunday. (Samer Shalabi/CBC News)

She also said she's concerned about Fahmy's health in jail. He has hepatitis C and needs surgery for a shoulder injury, Clooney said.

Neither she nor his family have spoken to Fahmy since the verdict came down, she said.

"The family was told they wouldn't be able to see him for 30 days, but I know that the Canadian Embassy has put in a request today for permission to see him earlier than that, so we're very much hoping that that's possible."

Two options: Deportation or pardon

Clooney says she is pursuing two possible avenues: having Fahmy pardoned or having him deported to Canada.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who has spoken out against the case, has said he would pardon Fahmy. But he also said he cannot step in while the court process is ongoing, Clooney said.

If I were a Canadian citizen, I would want to see my prime minister now showing leadership on the global stage.- Amal Clooney, human rights lawyer

Alternatively, she said, Fahmy could get the same treatment as Greste, who was deported to his native Australia in February.

Al-Jazeera has also said it will appeal the verdict once the court releases its full ruling in the next 30 days.

Canadian intervention

Lynne Yelich, minister of state for foreign affairs, said in a statement on Saturday that Canada is "disappointed" and that the decision "severely undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt." 

Clooney said she and Troy Lulashnyk, Canada's ambassador to Egypt, jointly filed formal requests on Saturday for Fahmy's pardon and deportation. 

"In terms of the support that I've had and that Mr. Fahmy has had on the ground, I think that has been exemplary," she said.

But she reiterated her call for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to personally intervene in Fahmy's case.

"What needs to happen now, in my view, is very high-level engagement by the government of Canada and that means Prime Minister Harper engaging directly with President Sisi," she said. "If I were a Canadian citizen, I would want to see my prime minister now showing leadership on the global stage."

Alexis Pavlich, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said, "Canadian government officials have raised this case with Egyptian officials at the highest level and will continue to do so. Canadian officials will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy."

With files from The Canadian Press