PLEASE NOTE: This story was updated on Thursday, July 16 to include comments from Amal Clooney, the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar.
Mohamed Fahmy and his legal team are working on “plan B” in case he’s convicted of terrorism-related offences for a second time, later this month, and preparing a request for the 41-year-old journalist to be deported back to Canada from Egypt.
His lawyer, Amal Clooney, has already written deportation and pardon request in preparation for the verdict in his retrial, set to come down on July 30.
“This is what we’re doing as a plan B in case I’m sent back to prison,” Fahmy said in a phone interview from Cairo Wednesday evening.
Fahmy, arrested in December 2013 while working as Cairo Bureau Chief for Al Jazeera English, told Global News exclusively the Canadian government has “accepted to endorse” the requests once they’re submitted to the general prosecutor after a verdict is handed down.
In a statement emailed to Global News, Clooney said she’s in regular contact with Canadian officials and “has been assured that, if Fahmy faces a further sentence, they will support my effort to secure his immediate release through a pardon or deportation.”
“I am hopeful that Fahmy’s nightmare will finally be over when the verdict in his retrial is announced on [July 30]. He has already been subjected to an unfair trial, and spent over a year in an Egyptian prison. If the new panel of judges again sends an innocent journalist to prison, it will be a dark day for Egypt.”
Gary Caroline, Fahmy’s Vancouver-based lawyer, told Global News the Canadian government “through its representatives have said they will do everything humanly and diplomatically possible” should he be found guilty and forced back behind bars.
“We have been working closely at the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as Minister Yelich’s office to canvass all possible avenues that Canada can explore should Mohamed be sentenced to additional prison time,” Caroline said. But it will ultimately be the Egyptians call, he added.
A spokesperson for Lynne Yelich, the minister responsible for consular affairs, would not confirm the extent of the government’s support for Clooney’s request for the possible deportation or pardon of Fahmy.
“We will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy while working closely with Egyptian officials regarding his case,” Erica Meekes said.
Fahmy remains uncertain how the case will turn out and whether he’ll face a new jail sentence, a suspended sentence or be cleared of all charges and set free.
Fahmy had hoped to be deported from Egypt back in February, under a decree that allows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to order the deportation of foreign nationals who are charged with or convicted of crimes. It was that decree that allowed his Australian Al Jazeera colleague, Peter Greste to be deported in February. Fahmy, a 41-year-old Egyptian-born Canadian citizen, renounced his dual Egyptian citizenship in a bid to be sent back to Canada.
Fahmy, Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were arrested by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29, 2013 and convicted six months later of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt designated a terrorist organization, and of airing fabricated footage to undermine Egyptian national security.
Following an appeal of the case, Egyptian authorities released Fahmy on bail on Feb. 13 after being detained for more than 400 days. But his hopes of going free were dashed when he was later ordered to stand trial again, along with Mohamed.
Since that time, there has been increased public criticism on the Canadian government to step in and secure his release.
Canadian officials have intervened dozens of times: Yelich
The Canadian government insists it’s doing all that it can to intervene in Fahmy’s case and denies any suggestion that it’s not making enough effort.
Global News viewed a letter from Yelich responding to criticism from NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar in June.
“Although the Privacy Act limits the amount of detail I can share, I can tell you that since his detention, the Government of Canada has actively advocated on Mr. Fahmy’s behalf,” read the letter dated July 14. “Any indication that we have not done so is false.”
Dewar, in a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson dated June 23, said he continues to be “disappointed” with the Conservative government’s “failure to publicly defend Mr. Fahmy against these charges.”
He pointed to examples of other the successful deportation of other foreign citizens from Egypt following pressure by their governments — including the Australian government on Greste’s behalf and the U.S. government on behalf of American Mohamed Soltan.
“We continue to urge you and your cabinet colleagues, including the Prime Minister, to directly request and enable his return to Canada,” the letter reads.
But according to Yelich’s letter, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has “personally raised the case” with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — something Fahmy said the Canadian government has not acknowledged previously, even though Egyptian officials already had.
She also stated federal government ministers, including herself, have intervened nearly a dozen times, while other Canadian officials in Ottawa have met with the Egyptian Ambassador to Canada at least 20 times and Ambassador to Egypt, currently Troy Lulashny, has had 28 “high-level” meetings with Egyptian government officials.
“As you can see, we have been pushing for Mr. Fahmy’s release and return with Egyptian officials at the highest levels for some time and will continue to do so,” Yelich wrote to Dewar — who remains skeptical about the government’s efforts.
Dewar said Thursday he feels Yelich’s response offers “no real answers to our basic questions about when and how the government last contacted their Egyptian counterparts, or whether all logistical arrangements are in place to bring Mr. Fahmy back to Canada after his retrial.”
Yelich also wrote that despite Fahmy criticizing the government for not doing enough to secure his release, he has been thankful to Canadian government’s efforts.
Fahmy said he has “always been thankful” for the support the Canadian government has given him “since day one.” But he said the government’s efforts to intervene have only become “more aggressive” in the months since Greste’s deportation.
Fahmy also noted a difference following a change in leadership at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, Development and Trade.
“I am extremely thankful that recently they are cooperating with my lawyers which wasn’t the case back when Mr. John Baird was Foreign Minister, when he refused to meet Amal Clooney.”
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story stated Canada’s ambassador to Egypt was David Drake, who held the position at the time of Fahmy’s arrest.. Ambassador Troy Lulashny took over the role in September 2014. This story has been updated accordingly.