A few days ahead of the retrial of the Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said Tuesday that he has sent letters to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi about jailed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy.
The Cairo Criminal Court has set 12 February as a retrial date for the “Marriott cell” case, against the Al Jazeera staff.
Fahmy’s family launched a campaign on twitter using #HarperCallEgypt to call for the Canadian government to intervene to release Fahmy.
Fahmy was arrested and jailed, along with three other Al Jazeera journalists, since December 2013, on charges of incitement and spreading false news. Among those convicted in the trial was Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was released and deported to his hometown on 1 February upon a presidential decree.
On the other hand, Baher Mohamed, who was also arrested and who only holds the Egyptian nationality, remains in prison serving out his 10-year sentence. Only the overturning of the sentence in the retrial would guarantee his release.
“Canada is deeply concerned that a re-trial date has been set despite assurances that Mr. Fahmy would be released with colleague Mr. Greste,” Lynne Yelich, Canadian minister of state and parliament member, said on her official twitter account,
She added that Canadian officials raised the case of Mohamed Fahmy with Egyptian officials 15 times in the last 9 days.
“We understand this is an upsetting time for the family. We remain hopeful Mr. Fahmy’s case will be resolved in a timely manner,” she said.
In mid-January, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss, in part, the jailed Al-Jazeera journalists and “the Marriott cell” case, whereby Shoukry “assured that the Egyptian judiciary is independent”, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s statement.
The Qatari-owned Al Jazeera media organisation has been unpopular with Egyptians, particularly following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2013.