The Globe and Mail, by KRISTEN MCTIGHE
The day after Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was sentenced to three years in prison, his lawyer and Canada’s ambassador in Cairo met with senior Egyptian cabinet members in an effort to secure his freedom, according to one of Mr. Fahmy’s brothers.
Adel Fahmy told The Globe that Ambassador Troy Lulashnyk informed the Fahmy family that he met on Sunday with Justice Minister Ahmed el-Zend and with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to officially request that Mohamed Fahmy be pardoned or deported. The ambassador said Amal Clooney, Mr. Fahmy’s lawyer, also met with the two Egyptian ministers, Adel Fahmy added.
“What the ambassador told us was that the meetings were positive – not positive in the sense that they got an answer on a solution, but positive in the sense that they got good feedback,” he said. “But I don’t want to jump to conclusions; nothing is certain.”
A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs in Ottawa said the government is focused on the Fahmy case but declined to be more specific. “Canadian government officials have raised this case with Egyptian officials at the highest level and will continue to do so,” Amy Mills said in an e-mail response. “Canadian officials will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy.”
Mr. Fahmy was the Cairo bureau chief for the English-language affiliate of the Qatar-owned station Al Jazeera. He was convicted of broadcasting false information damaging to Egypt, after the military ousted president Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Also convicted were producer Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian citizen, and reporter Peter Greste. Mr. Greste was deported earlier this year and is free in his native Australia.
While family and lawyers have said they remain hopeful of a resolution, Mr. Fahmy’s fate is uncertain. Without political intervention, the timeline for appeals and other legal proceedings that could free him is long.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi could pardon him, using Egyptian law as a guide. It provides, however, that a pardon can only come after a verdict in a case is final. Because Mr. Fahmy’s conviction can still be appealed to Egypt’s highest court, legal experts say the verdict is not considered final.
Lawyers for Mr. Fahmy and his colleagues have 60 days to file an appeal, but they cannot do so until a written judgment in the case has been issued, which the judge must do within 30 days. Appeals in Egypt can take months to be processed because the legal system is backed up.
Another avenue could be through a presidential decree issued last year by Mr. el-Sissi that allows the deportation of foreign nationals accused or convicted of a crime to be tried or serve out their sentences in their home countries “when such transfer is in the best interest of the [Egyptian] state.”
The decree does not specify that the judicial process must be exhausted before the President can step in and deport the foreign national. However, Egyptian government officials have said in the past that they will not intervene in ongoing judicial processes.
Mr. Greste was deported shortly after an Egyptian appeals court threw out the original verdict in the case of the three journalists and ordered a retrial, but before a trial date had been set.
Apart from Mr. Greste, Mr. el-Sissi has invoked the decree in one other instance. In May, Egyptian-American Mohamed Soltan, the son of a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader, was deported after he had been sentenced to life in prison on charges of financing an anti-government sit-in and spreading “false news.” Mr. Soltan’s deportation came before an appeal had been filed.