Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy is one of three Al Jazeera journalists convicted on Monday by an Egyptian court on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to seven years in jail.
The case has generated international outrage from governments, human rights groups and other journalists who believe the charges against them are politically motivated and without merit.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague summoned Egypt’s ambassador to a meeting after the verdict was announced. American Secretary of State John Kerry said the sentence is “chilling and draconian.” Amnesty International called the journalists’ prosecution a “vindictive farce” and said the trio, who include Egyptian Baher Mohamed and Australian Peter Greste, are pawns in Egypt’s dispute with Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government is “shocked” and “dismayed” by the verdict, and said Australia will work to get Greste returned home “as quickly as possible.” He said he spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi about the case over the weekend. In Canada, Lynne Yelich, minister of state for foreign affairs and consular services, called the judicial process “inconsistent with Egypt’s democratic aspirations.”
Maclean’s spoke to Fahmy’s brother, Sherif, in Kuwait. The interview has been edited.
How is your family doing?
Today was a heartbreaking scene. We were not able to calm down our mother at all. At the age of 65, it’s very hard for her to know that her son will be locked up for seven years. The chances of him being acquitted while she is still alive are not that great. That’s why she broke down in tears, stomping her foot on the floor.
I’m trying to hold up. My other brother is trying to hold up, so we can give her some strength.
You were expecting a different result?
We got this feeling from our lawyer during the last hearing before the verdict. We passed that along to Mohamed, so that’s why he was feeling optimistic. Because of that, during my last prison visit, he passed on 25 tweets for me to release from his account once he is released.
I’ll tell you the most important one. Mohamed had the feeling that Canada did its job, actually fought for him, and that’s why he’s going to get released. He doesn’t know that Canada actually did not do too much. So the first tweet is: “Thank you, Canada. I will be arriving soon for some love. No terrorism plans, I promise.”
What were you hoping the Canadian government would do?
When you called me right now, I was watching one of the most popular Egyptian shows, and the host showed how worried Egypt is because of the reaction of foreign governments because of the verdict today. He referred to Australia, and he referred to England. He even hosted the Egyptian ambassador in London, telling him what happened today in his meeting with the British representative.
What other governments are doing is making Egypt really worried today. On the other hand, nothing at all from Canada. We’re not asking for anything extra. We just want them to do what the other governments are doing. At least, call the Egyptian ambassador in Ottawa and show him how devastated you are—if you actually are devastated.
When will you see Mohamed again?
I will be coming back to Cairo next week. I will tell him to stay strong. I will remind him that he has been in more difficult situations. I will remind him when he was in the war in Iraq, being shot at. And I will just tell him to stay optimistic and that the whole world is fighting for him and for his colleagues, and it that it will end soon—much, much sooner than he thinks.
Do you think that’s true?
I hope. Canada cannot leave Mohamed to rot for seven years in maximum security. We hope that they do fight for Mohamed and ignore the fact that he is a dual national and remember that he is a Canadian citizen. He is paying taxes, and we’ve lived in Canada more than we’ve lived in Egypt. I hope they remember this.