POLITICS

'Excruciating' waiting game for Mohamed Fahmy as retrial put over for a month

03/25/2015 12:14 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
A Canadian journalist undergoing his second trial in Egypt on widely derided terror charges steeled himself for an "excruciating" wait Wednesday after a judge ordered his case adjourned until the end of next month.

Mohamed Fahmy, who has been fighting for more than a year to clear his name and return to Canada, said the long gap between proceedings contradicts all suggestions that Egypt wants to expedite his case.

"This nightmare of a trial seems that it will extend for many more months to come before we see a final verdict," Fahmy told The Canadian Press. "It seems like the judge is really taking his time."

The 40-year-old was working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English when he and two colleagues were arrested in Cairo in December 2013.

They were charged with airing falsified footage intended to damage national security and being part of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which is now considered a terrorist group in Egypt. The trio insisted they were simply doing their jobs.

After a trial that was internationally criticized as a sham, Fahmy was sentenced to seven years in prison but a successful appeal resulted in a retrial being ordered.

One of his colleagues — Australian Peter Greste — was abruptly released in February under a law which allows for the deportation of foreigners convicted of crimes, but Fahmy and his Egyptian co-worker Baher Mohamed remained in prison. They were granted bail after their retrial began.

Wednesday's court session saw the judge swear in a new technical committee tasked with analysing several videos produced by Fahmy and his team before their arrest.

Among their findings, the panel will have to determine whether the videos on seven CDs involved any fabrication, Fahmy said.

The committee will not, however, have to determine if the videos endangered Egypt's national security — a significant change from what a previous technical committee was asked to do at Fahmy's original trial.

"They are basically videos that my team had filmed," Fahmy said. "There's nothing that is incriminating, there's no falsification of events and the editing is the sort of editing that any TV channel would have. I'm not worried about the contents of the videos."

Fahmy did express frustration, however, at how long the committee would take to do its work.

"One month to view seven CDs is a really long time considering that we have already suffered for over a year of incarceration," he said.

Fahmy also had the opportunity on Wednesday to ask the judge dealing with his case for help in getting a new Canadian passport issued after his was seized during his arrest.

"He asked me 'who took your passport and where is it?' I said I don't know where it is," Fahmy said. "The judge pretty much gave the Canadian ambassador the green light to issue a new passport once I file a report in a police station stating that it has been lost."

The Canadian Embassy in Cairo also submitted a letter to the judge on Wednesday, highlighting that Fahmy had applied to be deported from Egypt, just like his Australian colleague.

"If the deportation does not go through during the trial and I am convicted at the end of this trial, I would like not to spend a single day in prison," Fahmy said.

"The Canadian government should continue to engage directly with the highest levels of the authorities here in regards to deportation so that I could be transferred to Canada as soon as the verdict is announced, regardless of what it is."

Fahmy moved to Canada with his family in 1991, living in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN.

He took over as the bureau chief for Al Jazeera's English-language channel in Cairo in September 2013.