Mohamed Fahmy urges end to 'diplomatic blockage' in leaving Egypt
Promises of presidential pardon after retrial is just more rhetoric, Canadian journalist says
Journalist Mohamed Fahmy, still facing a retrial in Egypt, said on Sunday he would like to speak directly to someone in the Canadian government to ask for help in securing his deportation from Egypt, something that was arranged for his Australian colleague weeks ago.
The Al-Jazeera English journalist indicated in a CBC interview he finds it difficult to trust media reports that say Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sissi promises to issue a presidential pardon after his retrial ends.
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"We have been accustomed to such rhetoric from the Egyptian president," Fahmy said. "He has claimed he would pardon us at least three times in the past year, at the UNGA (UN General Assembly) in November in Davos and several other occasions.
"The president, I feel, uses that sort of rhetoric to appease some of the diplomatic pressure that's applied on him and to calm down the sort of pressure that's coming from different areas.
"It has really become an emotional roller-coaster, not just for me, but for other journalists in the case, who have heard this kind of rhetoric before," Fahmy said.
El-Sissi was quoted in an Egyptian newspaper on Saturday as saying he can't interfere to release Fahmy and his Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamad until the final verdict has been handed down.
While legal proceedings continue in Cairo, Fahmy remains out on bail, but must report daily to police. Australian Peter Greste was arrested with the two other Al-Jazeera journalists in December 2013, but was deported from Egypt on Feb. 1, although he, too, was facing a retrial.
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Fahmy said he doesn't believe "some of the rhetoric out there" that Canada has not done more to help him because he's a Muslim or has dual citizenship. However, he said "there must be a diplomatic blockage" if one of his colleagues was deported but not him.
'Contact me directly'
Fahmy said the Canadian government has been slow to speak to the right people at the right time and is only now starting to realize "the usual ways of dealing with the Egyptian government have to be changed."
"I do understand the Canadian ambassador in Egypt has met directly, face-to-face, with the Egyptian prosecutor, which we had hoped would have happened earlier in order to extract me from this case," he said.
"I would like somebody from our government to contact me directly," Fahmy said. "I have been contacted by members of the opposition, Justin Trudeau, and others who have been really concerned about my situation. I would like to speak to somebody from the government, our government in Canada, to better understand what is the problem exactly."
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who is working to get Fahmy out of Egypt, also expressed her frustration last week.
She said calls for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to "pick up the phone and personally intervene in the case have so far fallen on deaf ears."
The retrial of the Al-Jazeera journalists, accused of aiding a terrorist organization, resumes March 8.
CBC asked the office of Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular Affairs) Lynne Yelich for a comment about the case and she said the government remains optimistic, and that "Canada continues to call for the immediate and full release of Mohamed Fahmy."
“Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has spoken of his consideration of a general amnesty to advance a humanity built on compassion and peace. We encourage President el-Sisi to immediately resolve Mr. Fahmy’s case," the minister said in a statement.
Yelich also said, "Canada advocates for the same treatment of Fahmy as other foreign nationals have received."