TORONTO – An Egyptian-Canadian journalist imprisoned in Cairo is weighing whether he will appeal his conviction and go through the “circus” of a retrial.
Mohamed Fahmy has already been in prison for seven months, but is facing the prospect of seven years after he was found guilty on terrorism-related charges along with two Al-Jazeera English colleagues.
His Australian colleague, Peter Greste, is appealing, but Fahmy writes from behind bars that he is “conversing with many lawyers and still assessing options.”
“If an appeal is accepted months from now, we will be paraded in whites again in the circus of a retrial,” Fahmy wrote in a letter sent through his fiancee to Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
“I still believe in the back-room unannounced diplomatic efforts ongoing with the Egyptian government that even took place during the recent Gaza ceasefire talks, held in Cairo by prominent diplomats.”
Fahmy was working in Cairo as a bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English when he and his two colleagues — Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed — were arrested last December. They were accused of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and fabricating footage to undermine Egypt’s national security — allegations the journalists have denied, saying they were just doing their jobs.
Their trial was denounced as a sham by a number of international observers. The judge’s sentencing reasons say the three journalists were brought together “by the devil” to destabilize the country. In several pages of the reasoning, the judge lay out a detailed account of the evidence cited by investigators.
Largely the evidence appears to describe typical reporting, including footage produced by the journalists that included voices critical of the government and showed the turmoil in Egypt after the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer, as well as interviews with families of those killed in the crackdown on Morsi supporters.
Tom Henheffer, the executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, said the letter is part of Fahmy’s strategy to build awareness internationally and show people the Egyptian court system is corrupt.
“I don’t think anyone should take this letter as an indication that he won’t be appealing or that he’s lost hope,” Henheffer said. “He’s a very tenacious individual and he’s going to fight for this until he’s free. There’s no doubt of that.”
Henheffer said the CJFE fully supports whatever course of action Fahmy chooses, but he noted that filing an appeal could help diplomatic efforts, by showing that he is taking every effort to prove he is not guilty.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has said “bullhorn diplomacy” won’t win Fahmy’s release, but that Canada is pursuing all legal avenues to secure the journalist’s freedom.