TORONTO – A number of prominent Canadians are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene “personally and immediately” in the case of a Canadian journalist on trial in Egypt.
In an open letter released Monday, 250 people — including comedian Rick Mercer, filmmaker Atom Egoyan, author Michael Ondaatje and diplomat Stephen Lewis — urged Harper to press his Egyptian counterpart on Mohamed Fahmy’s case.
Fahmy was released on bail last Friday after spending more than a year in a Cairo prison, but he is set to return to court next week for the continuation of a retrial on terror-related charges his family has called ridiculous.
The letter to Harper calls for the prime minister to ask that Fahmy be allowed to leave Egypt under a new law that allows foreigners convicted or accused of crimes to be deported.
“We the undersigned are writing to urge you to intervene personally and immediately in the case of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who is currently facing retrial in Egypt after 411 days of incarceration,” the letter to Harper said.
“We stand in support of Mr. Fahmy along with thousands of Canadians, international human rights organizations and global political leaders urging you to contact (Egyptian) President (Abdel Fattah) el-Sissi and request that Mr. Fahmy’s deportation order be honoured.”
When Harper was asked by reporters last week if he had spoken directly to the Egyptian president about Fahmy, he would only say the Canadian government has been in contact with Egyptian authorities at all levels, including his level.
Fahmy and his family have criticized the Canadian government for what they see as a lack of adequate action on the case, particularly after Fahmy’s Australian colleague was deported from Egypt two weeks ago.
In an interview with the British newspaper The Independent on the day he left prison, Fahmy said it was the “geo-political score-settling” among Middle Eastern countries that put him and his two Al Jazeera English colleagues — Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed — behind bars.
But Fahmy has also said he blames Canada, particularly Harper and former foreign affairs minister John Baird, for failing to win his freedom.
Fahmy’s fiancee emphasized that it’s important that Canada pushes on deportation because the 40-year-old journalist’s ordeal is far from over.
“The judge can send them back to prison next session. Nothing is guaranteed,” she told The Canadian Press. “It’s the role of Canada now, they have to show that it’s for the national interest of Egypt to deport Mohamed.”
Fahmy currently has no pieces of identification, Omara said. His Egyptian ID was taken away when he relinquished his Egyptian citizenship as a condition of being deported, and his Canadian passport, which was taken away by authorities, hasn’t been found, she said.
“It hasn’t ended yet,” she said. “We need Mohamed to be out from here.”
Fahmy and his colleagues were arrested in December 2013 and 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 was then suddenly released before the retrial began, leaving Fahmy hoping he would be the next to leave.
His high-profile human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, has said that Fahmy could still be deported, despite his retrial being underway.
“There is no impediment to his immediate transfer to Canada,” she has said. “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.”