WATCH: The family of journalist Mohamed Fahmy is livid he’s still being held in an Egyptian prison and blames Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not intervening. As Vassy Kapelos reports, freeing Fahmy won’t be easy at this point.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Harper has been in contact with Egypt’s president, but that specifics of the communication between them will not be released.
The fiancée of Mohamed Fahmy is outraged Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn’t picked up the phone and made a direct appeal to Egypt’s president for the jailed journalist to be released.
“We are very disappointed,” said Marwa Omara from Cairo, “to see that Mohamed will have a retrial after all the assurance from the Canadian government that Mohamed will be released.”
Fahmy is set to begin a retrial Thursday in Cairo, and his lawyer has had just days to prepare. The Al-Jazeera journalist has been in custody for more than 400 days. He was sentenced in June 2014 to at least seven years in prison for terrorism-related offences along with two colleagues.
Peter Greste, a colleague of Fahmy, was released from prison Feb. 1. A new decree has given Egypt’s president the power to deport foreigners convicted or accused of crimes.
She says she believes the Australian government made a “great and consistent effort” to get Greste out, continually pushing for his release.
“Mohamed now is a Canadian citizen,” she said, citing Fahmy’s deal to drop his Egyptian citizenship, a decision she says was very hard for him and one the Canadian government was aware of, in order to be free. “Mohamed should be treated like Peter, since he’s a foreigner.”
Fahmy relinquished his Egyptian citizenship in December of 2014. Omara said Egyptian authorities essentially made freedom for him conditional on doing so.
“We don’t know what went wrong. We don’t get any feedback from the Canadian government.”
Fahmy supporters have started a social media campaign, calling on supporters to use the hashtag “HarperCallEgypt.”
“We believe that with Mr. Harper’s interference with the case, Mohamed can be released.”
She said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi three times, urging Greste’s release.
“I think it’s an embarrassment for Canada that a Canadian citizen is in prison for doing nothing, for just doing his job,” said Omara. “For being a journalist.”
Tarek Loubani stayed 53-days in Cairo’s Tora prison, where Fahmy now serves his sentence. He calls it one of most notorious prisons in Egypt.
“The cockroaches, the crowding, the poor medical care,” recalls Loubani via Skype from the Gaza Strip. “The lack of freedom, the lack of phone calls, the poor food.”
Loubani, an emergency room doctor from London, Ont., was swept up in mass arrests in Cairo during protests in 2013.
He believes he still would be in prison if it weren’t for the efforts of the Canadian government on his behalf.
Loubani described Fahmy’s imminent retrial as a “lobster trap… once you get stuck in it, then you can’t get out of it.”
Fahmy’s first trial has been internationally decried as a sham.
“The idea that there is an independent judiciary is obviously false,” Loubani told Global News. “It’s definitely the case that Sisi gets to decide whether or not Fahmy walks free.”
He said now is a critical time for Harper to get involved, especially as John Baird walks away from his Foreign Affairs post. Baird has previously held talks with Egyptian officials regarding Fahmy, pushing for his release.
“We understand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a lot of important things to do, however, he can save this man’s next few years and possibly his life because Fahmy is also quite sick.”
Fahmy has Hepatitis C and a shoulder injury which is in need of surgery.
“It’s impossible to explain that feeling as a prisoner when somebody tells you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and then that light is extinguished,” he said.
He implores Canadians to pick up the phone and call the prime minister.
“Egypt is watching, and Egypt is listening. They’re affected and they’re impacted by what we say as Canadians. Canadians give this government legitimacy, and we can take it away. And we need to take it away as a consequence of them treating one of our citizens so badly.”
-With files from Vassy Kapelos