02/12/2015 04:25 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT

Mohamed Fahmy's Release Has Nothing To Do With Canadian Political 'Pressure,' Family Says

OTTAWA - Former foreign affairs minister John Baird and his lieutenant Lynne Yelich have pushed Egypt to release journalist Mohamad Fahmy on 13 separate occasions since January 2014, The Canadian Press has learned.

The last overture was a phone call from Yelich on Monday to Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry on Monday. And Baird's last call to his counterpart came on Feb. 1 — the day before he told his staff he was planning to resign, which leaked out later that night.

The details of Canada's diplomatic offensive were provided by a senior Canadian government official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Yelich also said in a statement Thursday that Canadian officials have pushed their Egyptian counterparts on 19 occasions in the last two weeks.

Fahmy, 40, was granted bail Thursday at the start of his retrial in Cairo, but it's still not clear if he will be able to leave Egypt.

Fahmy's brother, Adel, said his brother's release had nothing to do with any "pressure" brought to bear by Canadian politicians. But he thanked embassy staff in Cairo for their help.

"I have to reiterate that we do appreciate very much so the consular service level we've had here from the very start until now," he said.

"Our disappointment is mainly on the lack of sufficient pressure by the Canadian government."

Details provided by the official show Baird talked directly with the Egyptians nine times, while Yelich did so on three occasions, and wrote at least one letter.

On Dec. 29, 2013, Fahmy and his Al Jazeera colleagues, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, were arrested and accused of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

On June 23, 2014, all three were convicted with Fahmy and Greste sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohamed getting 10 years. The sentences brought a wave of international condemnation — including from the Canadian government — and calls for the newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to intervene.

Yelich wrote to Shoukry that same day to underline Canada's concerns. He had become Egypt's new foreign minister six days earlier.

Speaking publicly the next day, June 24, Baird cautioned that "bullhorn diplomacy" would do more harm than good.

Baird's first phone call to Shoukry came on July 14.

Baird spoke to Shoukry again about the case on Sept. 26 in New York City while the two men were at the United Nations General Assembly. He phoned him on Dec. 22, and met with him in Cairo on Jan. 15.

Yelich, meanwhile, followed up on Oct. 24 by calling Egypt's new ambassador to Canada.

On Jan. 22, Baird pressed Shoukry once again when the two men were in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum, and followed up three days later before leaving.

Asked whether he believes Fahmy might have been released sooner had he stayed at Foreign Affairs for a while longer, Baird said Wednesday night he didn't "accept" that proposition.

"We have thousands of consultations that the government deals with every year," he said. "None of these things resolve themselves as fast as we would like."

In a statement released Thursday, Yelich called on el-Sissi to grant Fahmy his full freedom "to advance a humanity built of compassion and peace."

She said Canada would continue to push the case at the highest levels.

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

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the prime minister personally reached out to his Egyptian counterpart on Fahmy's case, but provided no further details.

Harper wouldn't confirm that explicitly when asked the question Thursday, but he did suggest he'd indeed been in touch with el-Sissi.

"Our government has for some time now has been in contact with Egyptian authorities at all levels, including my level," Harper said. "We will continue to press for his release and we do remain optimistic this case will be resolved."


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