POLITICS

Mohamed Fahmy: Canada welcomes bail, demands 'full release'

02/12/2015 11:05 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
Canada welcomes an Egyptian court's decision today to free journalist Mohamed Fahmy on bail pending his retrial, but is also still calling for his "immediate and full release," says Canada's minister responsible for consular affairs.

- ANALYSIS: Little chance Mohamed Fahmy can be pardoned as new trial begins

In a written statement issued shortly after bail was granted, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich said the prospect of retrying Fahmy is "unacceptable," and that Canada wants Fahmy, a naturalized Canadian citizen, treated the same as other foreign nationals — many of whom have already been returned to their home countries.

"Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has spoken of his consideration of a general amnesty to advance a humanity built of compassion and peace," she noted.

"We encourage President Sisi to resolve Mr. Fahmy’s case in a timely manner."

Yelich said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has "personally" raised Fahmy's case with Sisi, and Canadian officials have done so "19 times in the last two weeks," she added.

"I have, along with former minister Baird, continued to raise this government's concerns regarding Mr. Fahmy's case at the highest levels with Egyptian officials and will continue to do so, " Yelich said about John Baird, who was involved in the case before he recently stepped down as foreign affairs minister.

In the interim, officials will continue to provide "consular assistance" to Fahmy "to ensure his well-being," Yelich said.

"We understand this is an upsetting time for the family."

In an interview with CBC News Network shortly after the ruling, Fahmy's brother, Adel, said the family is still disappointed at the lack of "sufficient pressure" by the Canadian government.

"We are very content and happy with what the embassy has been doing with us from Day 1 here," he told CBC News Network.

"The consular service here in Egypt has been exceptional. Our disappointment is mainly on the lack of pressure by the Canadian government on the Egyptian counterparts." 

He added that the failed deportation of Fahmy over the weekend "is still very puzzling and very, very frustrating for us when we think about it."

Good news, but ...

Fahmy was ordered to be released on bail of $41,000. His retrial is set to resume Feb. 23.

His co-accused, Egyptian cameraman Baher Mohammed, was also released on bail. The two have been imprisoned for more than a year over charges that they aided the Muslim Brotherhood.

Their Australian Al-Jazeera colleague, Peter Greste, was freed and sent home last week.

New Democrat foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar turned to Twitter to share his immediate response on Thursday morning.

"Great to hear news Mohamed Fahmy will finally be released after more than 400 days in jail. Look forward to seeing him back in Canada." It wasn't immediately clear if Fahmy will be allowed to leave Egypt while out on bail.

Dewar's Liberal counterpart, Marc Garneau, was more cautious.

"Good news, but pressure must be maintained for full release," Garneau tweeted.

"It is a good piece of news to see him out on bail," he told CBC News on Thursday. 

"I understand that when you're accused of terrorism, it's unusual to get bail, so I think that is an indication that some of the pressure is working, coming from all quarters."

But he says Canada has to keep pushing, which is why his party has been urging Harper to speak to el-Sisi. 

"The government has been handing out some vague messages starting a few days ago that the Prime Minister's Office [had been in touch], but I think that was just mail," he told CBC News.

"I don't think there has been a voice conversation, and I think that's particularly significant. I understand that there are efforts now being made to have the prime minister speak to President el-Sisi over the telephone, and that's long overdue," he added.

"I think that for the Egyptian president to be contacted by the prime minister of Canada, directly over the phone and talking to him, has a significantly greater impact than a letter."

Fahmy 'very angry', says brother

On Wednesday, Adel Fahmy told CBC Radio's As It Happens that Fahmy was "very angry" over the latest developments.

"He's shocked that he has to go through all this again."

News of the retrial came just days after Baird had publicly stated that Fahmy's release was imminent.

Adel Fahmy told CBC News that he and his family were so convinced that Fahmy would soon be freed that his brother's fiancée was shopping for a plane ticket to Cairo, and a Toronto hotel room had been booked for a celebratory press conference upon his return.

In retrospect, Adel Fahmy told As It Happens, Baird's comment may have actually helped stall his brother's release.

"[Baird] should not have said it out in the open and embarrassed the Egyptians," he suggested.

"What we understand is that we've done everything the way that it's supposed to happen," he added.

"We followed all the steps."

Earlier this week, Fahmy's family and supporters launched the #HarperCallEgypt social media campaign in a renewed effort to urge Harper to intervene personally in his case.

In recent days, the Prime Minister's Office has said that Harper has sent letters to Egypt's president on Fahmy's case, but has declined to provide any further details, including the dates of that correspondence.