Mohamed Fahmy, Canadian imprisoned in Egypt, pleads for Harper's help
Al-Jazeera journalist speaks with CBC's the fifth estate in exclusive interview
Imprisoned Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to personally ask Egypt's president to release him before an appeal court closes his chance at a retrial.
Fahmy, who made the comments in an exclusive interview with CBC's the fifth estate, was arrested last December along with two other Al-Jazeera journalists. He was sentenced in June to seven years in prison on charges of undermining Egypt's security and supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. His appeal is scheduled for Jan. 1.
The interview marks the first time the Canadian-Egyptian dual citizen has spoken about his conviction and his belief that the Canadian government can do more.
I'm a desperate Canadian citizen that needs the government to stand by me as much as they can.- Mohamed Fahmy
"We are at the finish line, we’re two weeks away from the appeal and that phone call I desperately need from the Canadian government I need now," Fahmy said.
Fahmy said the government should intervene because he is a Canadian citizen with no criminal record. "I've paid my taxes, I have a proven track record of 15 years of journalism and I've acted with complete decency throughout the whole trial," he said.
"And my dialogue with the media has never outright attacked or critiqued the Canadian government's stance. But now I'm a desperate Canadian citizen that needs the government to stand by me as much as they can."
To protect Fahmy, the fifth estate cannot reveal how it obtained the interview.
Canada has defended its efforts
Fahmy's family has recently retained international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney to help put pressure on both the Canadian and Egyptian governments, and to push for Fahmy's release.
The family was given hope when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi decreed last month that foreign prisoners could be deported. It’s not clear whether Fahmy’s dual citizenship affects that ruling.
El-Sissi said in September that he can't interfere with his country's courts, but had he been in power when the journalists were arrested he would have simply deported them.
The Canadian government has previously defended its efforts in trying to promote Fahmy's release.
In June, Harper said Egyptian authorities were aware of Canada's "deep concerns" about the judicial process.
"We have expressed those to the authorities," the prime minister said at the time. "We have attempted and have provided, and have attempted to provide, consular service wherever possible.
"Obviously there are some difficult circumstances here, but the Egyptian authorities are very aware of the position of the government of Canada, and we will continue to press that position going forward."
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has acknowledged the sensitive relationship between the two countries, and has said "bullhorn diplomacy" won't win Fahmy's release. Baird has also said Canada is pursuing all legal avenues to secure Fahmy's release.
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In the the fifth estate interview, Fahmy praised Canadian Embassy staff in Cairo but said it's time for Canada's leaders to step up.
"What I have in mind is that the Canadian prime minister get on the phone, calls the Egyptian president, tells him:" 'Hey, this guy is not dangerous. He's not a national security threat and he needs a lot of medical attention. Deport him to Canada.'"
Fahmy said he's received no "satisfying answer" from Canadian officials about what has actually transpired between the two countries regarding him.
The Al-Jazeera 3
Fahmy's ordeal began when he was arrested with his colleagues on Dec. 29, 2013.
After nine years in Canada, he had returned to Egypt to cover the protests that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime and the rise of the country's first democratically elected government, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
After a troubled start and continuing protests, that government was ousted by Egypt's current military rulers in July 2013.
Under the new regime, the media, and particularly Al-Jazeera, were targeted. 'The Al-Jazeera 3,' as Fahmy and his colleagues have been dubbed, were apprehended as they worked, their arrest broadcast on Egyptian national television.
In a trial Amnesty International called a sham, the three — Fahmy, Al-Jazeera's Cairo bureau chief; Australian Peter Greste, a reporter; and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, a producer — were convicted and sentenced to prison.
Fahmy has since had surgery for his broken shoulder and needs treatment for Hepatitis C.
His financée, Marwa Omara, says he is suffering more than just physically. "It's affecting him psychologically, mentally, in all possible ways," she said.
CBC's the fifth estate will air an episode about Fahmy and his imprisonment in early 2015.