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Egyptian president vows a ‘fast resolution’ to case of jailed Egyptian-Canadian journalist

Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy

HANDOU/THE CANADIAN PRES

Egyptian president Adly Mansour is promising the family of a Canadian journalist who has been detained in the middle eastern country for nearly three months that he will do what he can to ensure a speedy trial.

Mr. Mansour wrote the family of Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy on Sunday, the English-language bureau chief in Cairo for the Al Jazeera television network, that he will be afforded all of his legal rights.

The independence of the Egyptian judiciary "will not stop me from exerting every effort necessary and possible to reach a fast resolution to this case, that guarantees justice in line with the law," wrote Mr. Mansour.

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The Egyptian president wrote a similar letter to the family of Australian journalist Peter Greste, an Al Jazeera journalist who was arrested at the same time as Mr. Fahmy. But Mr. Mansour additionally told the Grestes he "guarantees the resumption of the family in the near future."

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.

The reassuring tone of Mr. Mansour's letters comes after the apparent intervention of Canadians Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Consular Affairs Minister Lyne Yelich. After months of refusing to discuss the case, Mr. Baird recently used the social networking site Twitter to say: "I met personally with my Egyptian counterpart on this issue, as has Lyne Yelich."

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, Mr. Greste, and Baher Mohamed, the producer who was arrested with them at a Cairo hotel in late December, have been charged with conspiring with the banned Muslim Brotherhood to tarnish Egypt's international reputation. They were back in court on Monday, only to see their trial adjourned until next week.

"Today unfortunately, there wasn't much progress," Mr. Fahmy's brother Adel said in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail. Court officials had held out hope that the contents of the equipment that was seized when the men were arrested would be entered as evidence, but that did not happen, said Adel Fahmy.

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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Mr. Fahmy injured his shoulder shortly before his arrest. On Saturday, he obtained a CT scan and an MRI. But, so far, said his brother, there has been no actual treatment.

While in court on Monday, Mohamed Fahmy shouted that his arm is not being attended to and that he feels sorry for Rena Netjes, a Dutch journalist who had to flee the country simply because she had a cup of tea with him shortly before his detention.

Tom Henheffer, the executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression which has joined Al Jazeera in a campaign to secure the journalists' release, said he is glad to hear about Mr. Baird's intervention. But "I still would like to see the Canadian government come out publicly and unequivocally and say the Egyptian government needs to release these journalists," said Mr. Henheffer.

Adel Fahmy said he understands why the ministers can't be more open about what they are doing to help his brother – and said the Canadian consular staff in Egypt has been supportive. Diplomatic and media pressure are the two things that will sway the Egyptians to let the journalists go, he said.

The Egyptian government sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on Monday. But Adel Fahmy said that has no bearing on his brother's case.

"At the end of the day, Mohamed and Peter and their colleague Baher are all professional journalists," said Adel Fahmy. "Mohamed and Peter are award-winning. they have a great history in their line of work. That further proves they are objective journalists and have never been associated with any group whatsoever."

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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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