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Egypt won’t free Canadian journalist from prison as new court date set

Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is shown in a handout photo.

HANDOUT/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Mohamed Fahmy asked an Egyptian judge if he would let him out of prison if Canada offered a guarantee that he would remain in the country long enough to stand trial on terrorism charges. But any hope that the Canadian journalist had for release, even on a temporary basis, have been dashed.

The second hearing for Mr. Fahmy and other employees of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network ended on Wednesday, with a third court date scheduled for March 24 and Mr. Fahmy still behind bars.

The case has garnered worldwide attention and is seen as a test of the new Egyptian regime's tolerance for press freedom. News organizations, governments and international petitions have called for the journalists' release.

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But the pressure from external sources has had no apparent impact on the Egyptian determination to prosecute Mr. Fahmy and the others on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed president Mohammed Morsi.

Mr. Fahmy's brother, Sharif Fahmy, said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Globe and Mail: "I think Egypt is trying to prove to the world that no government and no country is allowed to interfere in Egypt's court system."

Mr. Fahmy, Al Jazeera's English-language bureau chief in Cairo, and two of his colleagues – Australian reporter Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed – were arrested in late December. They are among 20 Al Jazeera employees who have been charged, eight of whom are in custody.

Mr. Fahmy's parents, Fadel and Wafaa, have travelled from their home in Montreal to be with their son as he goes through the Egyptian court system. They and Mr. Fahmy's brothers were permitted to attend Wednesday's hearing.

"He was very frustrated today, extremely stressed," said Sharif Fahmy. "It's not looking good any more. I don't know what's happening."

Sharif Fahmy said his brother's lawyer was optimistic as recently as Saturday that the court would agree to the release on assurance from Canadian consular staff that he would not leave the country before his trial. The Foreign Affairs Department said Wednesday it could not say if any such guarantees have been extended to Mr. Fahmy, citing privacy rules.

The lawyer "said that his whole office is working on Mohamed's case and that we stand strong, and that all the documents provided prove his innocence, and that, no matter what, he was going to be released," said Sharif Fahmy. "But today, in court, it didn't seem so."

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The prosecution produced a witness who accused Mr. Fahmy of being a member of the Brotherhood and of providing information to Al Jazeera's Arabic network, which is banned in Egypt. "I don't know who was this witness or where they got this guy," said Sharif Fahmy, adding that the accusation is "ridiculous and everyone in the courtroom said so."

The federal Conservative government in this country has offered no explanation for its refusal to join world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and representatives of the United Nations, in calling for the release of the journalists.

Mr. Fahmy, who came to Canada with his family about 20 years ago, is a citizen of both Canada and Egypt. His family has been told by Canadian consular officials in Egypt that his dual citizenship has tied their hands in terms of demanding his release.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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