The family of an Egyptian-Canadian journalist sentenced to seven years in prison by a Cairo court says he has been sent to hospital in advance of surgery for a long-standing arm injury.
Mohamed Fahmy’s brother Adel says he was admitted Saturday for tests and other preparations for an operation on his upper arm.
He says the journalist with TV network Al-Jazeera English suffered from a fractured arm shortly before being arrested with two colleagues in late December, and his family have long been concerned the injury wasn’t being properly treated during his detention.
Verdicts were handed down last week to Fahmy and the two other broadcasters, a result that stunned observers and has sparked concern from Ottawa.
In a trial widely denounced by media advocates and human rights groups, the three were convicted of giving support to the Muslim Brotherhood — which Egypt labels a terrorist group — and compromising the country’s national security.
The journalists repeatedly denied all the allegations against them and contended they were just doing their jobs.
Adel Fahmy said it was a “miracle” and took a lot of paperwork for Fahmy to finally get care for his right arm, but added that the lengthy delay in getting a diagnosis and the harsh prison conditions meant the state of the limb “worsened drastically” to the point of being permanently disabled.
“He was handcuffed for long periods, plus the first month and a half he was in the maximum security, solitary-confinement prison where he was sleeping on a concrete floor. All of this contributed to the injury becoming chronic,” he told The Canadian Press in an interview from Cairo.
“If that wasn’t punishment enough, then the (court) sentence on top of all of that?”
“It will never be fully functional again. He has a restricted range of motion, he has considerable pain,” he said.
Fahmy is awaiting a date for the operation, and has government officers watching him “24/7” during his hospital stay, said his brother. Adel said he was joined by their mother and also Fahmy’s fiance to meet Fahmy as he was admitted to the health centre.
“He is relieved that he is finally in a hospital, that he is finally going to get proper treatment for his injury. It is just a sense of relief in the midst of all of this frustration and disappointment and depression we’re all in.”
“He’s still very demoralized. That’s the most expressive word to describe his mood and ours as his family. We’re still very demoralized, and we don’t know what’s going to happen and how we can get out of this unfair and unjust verdict,” Adel Fahmy added.
The family is hoping Fahmy is allowed to remain in hospital post-surgery to receive proper rehabilitation.
They’re also taking the case to an appeal court, pursuing a presidential pardon and hoping international pressure might result in an exceptional overturning of the conviction.
“We’re trying everything we can,” Adel said.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has said “bullhorn diplomacy” won’t win the journalist’s release, but added Canada is pursuing all legal avenues to secure his freedom.
Ottawa has been criticized for not using language as tough as that from the United States, Britain and Australia — the home country of one of Fahmy’s colleagues — but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada has “deep concerns” about the case which have been expressed to the Egyptian government.
Fahmy, whose family moved to Canada in 1991, lived in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN.