TORONTO – The family of an Egyptian-Canadian journalist held in a Cairo prison for months and now standing trial say they’ve met with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and were assured Canada will keep pressuring Egypt on the case.
Mohamed Fahmy was working for satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera English when he was arrested on Dec. 29 along with his colleagues — Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed — and has been detained since then.
Fahmy’s brother Adel says Baird met with them in Cairo on Friday for nearly an hour and informed the family he’s been working diplomatic channels to help Fahmy.
“He told us that this is not the first time he’s intervened or discussed the matter with his Egyptian counterpart. He’s spoken to the foreign minister of Egypt on several occasions,” Adel Fahmy said in an interview.
“He promised that efforts will continue and (that) he will follow very closely. He knows how it’s unfolding.”
Fahmy is facing charges alleging the news crew’s reporting provided a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood group of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, which has been declared a terrorist group.
The government accused Qatar-based Al-Jazeera of being biased to Morsi and his group, a claim the broadcaster rejects.
Fahmy and his co-accused fiercely deny the allegations, which have been derided by press advocates as a trumped-up attack on media freedoms. It’s thought to be the first time journalists have been charged with terrorism-related offences in Egypt.
Adel Fahmy said Baird explained that his brother’s joint citizenship was the “main obstacle” in efforts to bring about a fair and speedy end to the trial and see Mohamed released.
The family is due for another prison visit with Fahmy on Saturday, and Adel said word of the Baird visit should cheer him up.
“We know that it’s going to be a morale boost that he knows the Canadian government are backing him and closely supporting him.”
He said one topic the family raised with Baird was Fahmy’s health. The journalist suffered from a fractured arm prior to his arrest, and Adel Fahmy said he possibly needs surgery for the injury but that it’s not being properly treated in the prison.
The trial is to resume next week. In court earlier this month Fahmy yelled out from inside the cage he and his fellow accused are kept that the trial is a “joke” and that he didn’t understand the reason for it.
“I want to get out of this place! … I am going to expose all of this!” he shouted. “There are crimes against humanity taking place. Nothing is right in this system.”
Adel Fahmy said the case was “coming apart” now that prosecutors have introduced video evidence purported to show the journalists altered footage in a way that falsified news and threatened Egypt’s national security.
The videos played in court last week appeared to have no connection to terrorism and none was Al-Jazeera footage. They included clips from a BBC news documentary on Somalia by co-accused Greste and a Kenya press conference.
“We’re happy that everything is becoming exposed now, that these people are decent journalists doing their jobs objectively and are the furthest from any association with any political group,” Adel Fahmy said.
Fahmy’s family moved to Canada in 1991. He lived in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN.
— With files from the Associated Press
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