The high-profile human rights lawyer for a Canadian journalist on trial in Egypt is lashing out at what she calls Canada’s “woefully inadequate” efforts to bring him home.
Mohamed Fahmy spent more than a year in a Cairo prison after being arrested along with two colleagues while working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English.
The 40-year-old, who was released on bail earlier this month, is currently being tried a second time after a successful appeal of his original conviction on terror-related charges that have been widely denounced.
Although his legal case continues to wind its way through the courts, Fahmy has been hoping to leave Egypt under a law which allows for the deportation of foreigners convicted of crimes.
His Australian colleague left Egypt on Feb. 1 under that law, but the same has not yet happened for Fahmy — a situation his lawyer, Amal Clooney, is criticizing the Canadian government for.
Calling Fahmy “a journalist who has committed no crime,” Clooney pointed out that Canada had received assurances that Fahmy would be deported — former foreign affairs minister John Baird even called his release “imminent” — but when that didn’t happen, a junior minister simply issued a short statement on the matter.
“Such sheepish whimpers are woefully inadequate when it comes to enforcing an agreement reached with a sovereign state regarding a citizen’s release from detention,” Clooney said in a statement.
“Canada should now begin real advocacy to ensure that Egypt honours its agreement to release Mr. Fahmy from Egypt.”
Clooney added that there was no legal impediment to Fahmy’s immediate transfer to Canada, and urged the federal government to push for it.
“Calls from Canadian society and politicians for Prime Minister Harper to pick up the phone to personally intervene in the case have so far fallen on deaf ears,” she said.
Fahmy, his family and his supporters have repeatedly called on Harper to call his Egyptian counterpart to discuss the case.
Harper has said the Canadian government has been in contact with Egyptian authorities “at all levels” on Fahmy’s case, including his level, and said he was “optimistic” the case would be resolved.
Clooney said she hoped to visit Egypt to meet with Fahmy and discuss his case with Canadian and Egyptian officials.
Fahmy moved to Canada with his family in 1991, living in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN.
He took over as the bureau chief for Al Jazeera’s English-language channel in Cairo in September 2013.