CAIRO – On his first day out of a Cairo prison, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy returned Friday to the site of his arrest.
Fahmy’s release on bail after more than a year behind bars wasn’t expected until Saturday, but in an unexpected move authorities chose to let the 40-year-old walk out of a local police station in the early hours of Friday morning, his family said.
Hours later, Fahmy tweeted a photo of himself and his fiancee, saying they were sitting on a patio at the Cairo Marriott Hotel, where he and two colleagues were arrested in December 2013 while working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English.
“Free Sunshine bCairoMarriott where it all started with my better half Marwa Omara,” Fahmy tweeted. “Till death do us part. Thank you.”
The photograph showed a smiling Fahmy and Omara both holding up two fingers of their left hand in the shape of a “V.”
Fahmy also used Twitter to thank his family for being “front-line footsoldiers” in the fight for his freedom and voiced his appreciation for journalists around the world who supported him.
“Lots of love to the global journalism community for supporting us,” he tweeted. “It’s not over.”
Fahmy’s Egyptian co-worker, Baher Mohamed, was also freed on bail. His wife said Mohamed arrived home around 7 a.m. local time.
Photos on Facebook and a video aired by Al Jazeera English showed Mohamed hugging and playing with his children, one of whom was born during his detention, and wearing clothes with the tag, “Free Press.”
“I will continue fighting for the freedom of expression, and I will not back off,” he said in the video.
Both Fahmy and Mohamed were ordered released on bail by an Egyptian court on Thursday about an hour into the start of their retrial on terror-related charges their families have called ridiculous.
The surprise development prompted expressions of joy from Fahmy’s family, although the journalist’s legal battles continue.
The retrial was put over to Feb. 23, and until then, lawyers said Fahmy and Mohamed will have to report to a local police station every day.
Fahmy, Mohamed and their third colleague _ Australian Peter Greste _ were convicted last summer after a trial that was internationally denounced as a sham. A retrial was ordered after a successful appeal in early January.
Greste, however, was abruptly freed at the beginning of the month before a date for the retrial was announced last Sunday.
He left Egypt under a new law that lets the country’s president deport foreigners convicted or accused of crimes.
Fahmy had hoped to follow, giving up his dual Egyptian citizenship on the advice of local authorities in order for the law to apply to him.
Fahmy’s high-profile human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, said her client could still be deported under that law.
“Mr. Fahmy is eligible for transfer under this same law, and the retrial process … does not change that,” she said in a statement.
“There is no impediment to his immediate transfer to Canada and Prime Minister Harper should personally intervene to ensure that the promise that was made by the Egyptian government to his government, and to its citizen, is now honoured.”
When asked about Canada’s efforts on Fahmy’s case, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday that his government had “been in contact with Egyptian authorities at all levels, including my level.”
“We will continue to press for his release. And we do remain optimistic that this case will be resolved,” Harper said.
Fahmy’s family, while welcoming news of his bail, emphasized that Canada still needed to push to bring its citizen home.
“We still want full exoneration, if not, then deportation, and we still want Canada to pressure hard,” Fahmy’s brother, Adel Fahmy, said.
Greste, who is now back home in Australia, also emphasized that Fahmy’s ordeal wasn’t over.
“Enjoy your (limited) freedom brother,” he tweeted to Fahmy. “Nurse your arm, care for yr soul and hug yr family. Its not over but its still a good day.”
Fahmy was the only defendant who was ordered to pay an amount equivalent to about C$41,000 for his release on bail, as he was considered a flight risk.