NEWS

Mohammed Fahmy Deportation: Canadian-Egyptian Journalist Could Be Heading Home Soon

01/06/2015 12:08 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
CAIRO — The family of a Canadian-Egyptian journalist imprisoned in Cairo for more than a year said Tuesday they have been told he is set to be deported soon and hope an upcoming visit by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will speed up the process.

Mohammed Fahmy is one of three Al-Jazeera English journalists who were convicted last year of terror-related charges and sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison.

Last week an Egyptian court ordered a retrial for Fahmy and his colleagues, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer, but a date has yet to be set.

Fahmy's fiancee said the family hopes he will be deported before the new trial.

"We have submitted the deportation application and the Fahmy family met with a senior government official who confirmed the process is in its final stages,'' Marwa Omara told The Canadian Press in an email sent from Cairo.

"The Canadian government is following up with the Egyptians here and hopefully Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird's visit next week can expedite the process.''

The Department of Foreign Affairs has not released a date for Baird's visit to Cairo, but Omara said the family has been told he will arrive Jan. 15.

She said Fahmy's lawyers – Amal Clooney and Lorne Waldman – have requested a meeting with Baird prior to the visit to "better understand the legalities of the transfer and the litigation expected upon Fahmy's arrival.''

Baird said Tuesday the government "has been working very hard'' on the Fahmy case.

"We obviously were pleased that he was granted an appeal. We've been working very closely at senior levels within the Egyptian government and when we have further news to announce we will,'' he said in Toronto.

The case has sparked widespread condemnation from international rights groups and other media outlets, who say the journalists have been unjustly jailed for doing their job.

It is believed to stem from Egypt's rivalry with Qatar, which funds Doha-based Al-Jazeera, and which was a close ally of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and his banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. In recent weeks Egypt and Qatar have moved to thaw relations, raising hopes the three journalists could be released.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi issued a new decree in November granting him the power to deport foreign defendants convicted or accused of crimes, a move that could allow him to free Fahmy and Greste. However, Mohammed's case remains more uncertain as he holds only Egyptian citizenship.

In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the New York Times, Fahmy said the Al-Jazeera journalists have been "pawns in a geopolitical game that had nothing to do with our work as impartial professionals.''

"We three journalists had unwittingly been dragged into a cold war between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on one hand and Qatar and its allies, including Turkey, on the other,'' Fahmy wrote.

"I would like to remind Mr. Sisi that in the war he is waging against the cancer of political Islam and its violent offspring, journalists are not enemies but allies. We expose the truth about the terrorism he is striving to defeat.''

In a separate case, an ailing Canadian resident remained under detention in a hospital in Egypt on Tuesday despite an order for his release given more than a week ago by the country's attorney general, his family said.

It was not immediately clear why Khaled Al-Qazzaz, a former aide to ousted president Mohammed Morsi, had yet to be freed after more than 18 months in custody.

With files from The Associated Press.

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