Mohamed Fahmy sues employer Al-Jazeera for $100M
Former Cairo bureau chief says network's negligence, 'reprehensible' conduct led to arrests in 2013
Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian journalist on trial in Cairo, has filed a lawsuit against employer Al-Jazeera in a Canadian court, saying the network's negligence led to his arrest and demanding $100 million in compensation.
Fahmy, who spent more than 400 days in a Cairo prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organization, suggested Al-Jazeera's actions had landed him behind bars. Fahmy is a naturalized Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship.
Fahmy was the Cairo bureau chief of Al-Jazeera's English network.
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At a news conference in Cairo, Fahmy's lawyer, Joanna Gialason, said the lawsuit asks the court to declare Al-Jazeera negligent in its conduct toward Fahmy. It says the network should pay $100 million in punitive and remedial damages for its role in Fahmy's conviction and subsequent imprisonment.
Fahmy is also seeking compensation to treat a shoulder injury that he said has become a permanent disability since his imprisonment.
In court documents filed on May 5, Fahmy argues that the network's failures resulted in, among other things, his loss of freedom, severe pain, damaged professional reputation, and anxiety and distress due to losing his Egyptian citizenship.
His lawsuit alleges the network failed to take heed of the political and legal situation in Egypt before and after his time working for it in Cairo, which included the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood-supported former president Mohamed Morsi and the establishment of a military-backed government.
Fahmy claims the network's failures include equivocating on securing Egyptian press accreditation for him and several other unaccredited Al-Jazeera English staff in Cairo, paying anti-government activists to produce broadcast footage on an affiliate Al-Jazeera channel that was banned in the country, and rebroadcasting reports that Fahmy and his colleagues produced for Al-Jazeera English with Arabic voiceovers on the banned channel.
Al-Jazeera's actions 'high-handed, reprehensible,' Fahmy claims
The banned channel, Al-Jazeera Egypt Live, was used to illegally broadcast inflammatory material in an attempt to undermine the government, Fahmy's claim says.
The lawsuit claims that the rebroadcasts created the appearance that he and his staff members were producing content for Al-Jazeera Egypt Live in defiance of Egyptian law.
Despite multiple warnings sent to network managers, according to Fahmy, the network continued to make such broadcasts.
The court documents allege Al-Jazeera's actions were "high-handed, reprehensible and showed a wanton disregard for Fahmy's freedom, health, safety and security."
Fahmy was arrested, along with two other Al-Jazeera English journalists, in Cairo in 2013. He, Egyptian Baher Mohamed and Australian Peter Greste were originally sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison on charges that included spreading lies to help a "terrorist organization," a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The three journalists were convicted in 2014 and sent to prison. Greste, an Australian, was freed and deported earlier this year.
All three denied the charges. In January, a court ordered a retrial, citing procedural flaws.
Fahmy was released from prison on bail in February, pending a retrial ordered by a judicial appeal body.
Fahmy should seek compensation from jailers, Al-Jazeera says
The Muslim Brotherhood was banned after the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi, whom the group had backed. After it was banned, the Brotherhood was publicly supported by Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is headquartered.
"It's sad to see Fahmy and his lawyer repeating criticisms of Al-Jazeera made by the Egyptian authorities," said an Al-Jazeera spokesman.
"It's what his captors want to hear at this stage of the retrial. All governments have news outlets they don't like, but they don't use spurious grounds to put journalists in jail. If Fahmy wants to seek monetary compensation from anyone, it should be from his jailers."
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's human rights record has come under scrutiny since he, as army chief, toppled Morsi as president in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
A crackdown launched thereafter resulted in hundreds killed and thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members put in jail.
El-Sissi has said that he wished the Al-Jazeera journalists had been deported and not put on trial.
In late April, Fahmy received a temporary Canadian passport amid hopes among his family and supporters that he could soon leave Egypt.
With files from CBC News