The lawyer for a Canadian journalist facing long-decried terror charges in Egypt is accusing the federal government of being the only impediment to a new passport being issued for the man.
Mohamed Fahmy — who spent more than a year in a Cairo prison and has been working to get a passport ever since his release on bail in February — claims the lack of official documentation has placed him in a precarious situation.
He has trouble proving his identity at police checkpoints, is unable to carry out basic banking and can’t get married to the fiancee who has stood by him through his ordeal. He also has no official identification document to provide to officials at his next court appearance later this month.
Fahmy’s Vancouver-based lawyer, Gary Caroline, claims there is nothing in Canadian law that should prevent Fahmy from being issued a new passport, nor is there any indication Egypt’s courts don’t want the 40-year-old to have one.
“The only impediment is Canada,” Caroline told The Canadian Press.
“Canadian citizens are entitled to a passport unless there’s a darn good reason why not…The ‘why not’ doesn’t apply to Mohamed’s case. There is no condition being placed on him by the court in Egypt or the Egyptian authorities that would somehow mean that he can’t have his passport replaced.”
Fahmy’s original Canadian passport was never recovered after being seized by Egyptian authorities when he was arrested in December 2013 while working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English.
After initially believing Egyptian authorities were preventing him from getting a new Canadian passport, Fahmy learned late last week that it was in fact Ottawa’s decision not to issue him one.
A letter from Canada’s Passport program informed Fahmy that passport regulations require that “court-imposed mobility restrictions are respected” — a reference to his bail conditions.
“The Passport Program will provide you a travel document as soon as the court signals definitively that one is required, that your existing passport is, in fact, missing, and that the court-imposed travel restrictions against you are lifted,” the letter stated.
Fahmy’s lawyer noted, however, that the judge dealing with Fahmy’s case has made it clear he has no issue with a Canadian passport being issued and Fahmy has obtained a police report confirming his original passport is missing.
He also noted that the minister of citizenship and immigration, who is responsible for Passport Canada, and cabinet, have the power to use their discretion to issue Fahmy a new passport, something he has requested.
“The Canadian government has stated on several occasions that they don’t recognize the validity of any charges against Mohamed and that he won’t face any judicial proceedings when he comes back to Canada,” Caroline said.
“So then the question has to be asked, well if that’s been their position, why all of a sudden are they denying the passport? It may appear that it’s something at the Egyptian end but it is absolutely not.”
Lynne Yelich, Canada’s minister for consular affairs, has said the government has a travel document ready for Fahmy “when he is able to travel.”
Fahmy is currently undergoing his second trial in Cairo.
After being originally tried with two colleagues, he was sentenced to seven years in prison, but a successful appeal resulted in a retrial being ordered.
One of his colleagues — Australian Peter Greste — was released in February under a law which allows for the deportation of foreigners convicted of crimes.
Fahmy gave up his Egyptian citizenship for what he thought was a requirement to be deported under the same law but he remained in prison.
He and his Egyptian co-worker Baher Mohamed were granted bail after their retrial began.