Mohamed Fahmy retrial finally hears from key witnesses

The twice-delayed retrial of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy has begun in a Cairo court, with several key prosecution witnesses finally appearing for a revelatory cross-examination.

Fahmy and 2 Al-Jazeera colleagues were initially arrested in late 2013

'A step towards exoneration,' Mohamed Fahmy says as retrial begins

8 years ago
Duration 5:52
Canadian journalist discusses the start of his retrial in Cairo

The twice-delayed retrial of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy on charges of spreading false information finally opened Thursday in Cairo with the appearance of key witnesses who had been no-shows at earlier hearings.

Speaking with CBC's Heather Hiscox following the end of the day's session, Fahmy said, "I consider it a step towards exoneration, and I'm happy about that."

The witnesses included Egyptian state television video engineers, who were questioned about reports written about Al-Jazeera footage. Those reports formed part of the prosecutions's case in the initial trial of Fahmy and two of his Al-Jazeera colleagues.

According to tweets from Guardian journalist Patrick Kingsley, who is at the hearing, one of the video engineers, Kamel Mohamed Kamel, testified that he could not remember how many videos they had watched or what was in them. Under questioning from defence attorneys, Kamel also testified that they could not determine if the video footage had actually been broadcast.

"The technical committee that originally decided that our videos were against the national security of Egypt and that they were fabricated, this committee basically collapsed today during the questions from the defence and the prosecutor," Fahmy told Hiscox.

The presiding judge has ordered a new committee to determine when the video footage was made, and whether it was broadcast.

Other witnesses called included two security officials and two police officers.

Following a session that lasted about three hours, the judge ordered the retrial to resume next Wednesday.

Fahmy said he believes the judge wants to expedite the case.

Fahmy was acting bureau chief for Al-Jazeera's English network when he, Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed and Australian journalist Peter Greste were arrested in December 2013 on charges accusing them of being part of a terrorist group and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security. Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar, a main backer of Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. 

The trio of journalists were convicted last year and Fahmy received a seven-year prison sentence. However, an Egyptian appeal court ordered a new trial for the three, who were released on bail in February. Greste was deported back to Australia that month.

Fahmy has said that the authorities are holding his Canadian passport, which he said he needs to conduct official transactions, including getting married and renting hotel rooms or a car. Fahmy, formerly a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen, gave up his Egyptian citizenship earlier this year as a condition of getting released from prison.

At Thursday's hearing, a lawyer for Fahmy asked the judge for help in obtaining a Canadian passport for his client. However, the judge said he could not help, according to a tweet from the Guardian's Kingsley.

Fahmy later told CBC the Canadian ambassador pledged to meet with Egyptian Justice Ministry officials on Sunday to try to resolve the passport matter, and that if it isn't concluded he may be issued an exceptional document by the embassy that will allow him to get married.