Introduction by Roger Annis, June 24, 2015
Enclosed is an op-ed article by Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist working for Al Jazeera who was arrested in 2013 and is on trial for grave, criminal accusations of aiding and abetting “terrorism”, specifically for reporting on the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the 2012 presidential election in Egypt. He and his government were overthrown in a military coup on July 3, 2013.
Thousands of Egyptians have been killed and imprisoned since the coup.
Fahmy’s Australian journalist colleague, Peter Greste (right in photo), who was also imprisoned and facing similar charges was released from prison in February of this year and allowed to return to Australia. The Australian government lobbied hard for his release. Mohamed Fahmy (center of photo) has not received anywhere near the same degree of support from the Canadian government.
Egyptian Baher Mohamed is the third Al Jazeera journalist charged. He is Egyptian.
See the important June 25, 2015 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists: Egypt’s imprisonment of journalists is at an all-time high.
Mohamed Fahmy: I’m a pawn in a geopolitical game
By Mohamed Fahmy, op-ed in Toronto Star, June 22, 2015
As the Canadian journalist faces a retrial on terrorism charges in Egypt, he explains the complex barriers to his freedom.
The ongoing 18-month trial of we Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt has sparked unprecedented global debate about the rule of law, the ethics of journalism and free speech.
Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian president, decreed a deportation law in November 2014 while I was imprisoned for more than 400 days, to permit the extradition of non-Egyptian convicts or prisoners under investigation to their respective countries to serve their time or continue their trial.
Several weeks after the announcement, Egyptian secret service officers came to ask me to renounce my Egyptian citizenship so I could benefit from the new law. My initial reaction was an immediate refusal — I cherish both my Egyptian and Canadian citizenships. “This is from high above,’” I was told. “We want to help you get out of this case.”
The officer handed me a phone. To my surprise, it was a senior official: “Fahmy, we know you are patriotic and innocent,” he said. “Sign the documents. You can come back as a tourist and easily apply for it again. Nationality is in the heart, not just a piece a paper.”
I signed but still struggle today to describe the humiliating feeling as I stamped my finger prints on the official renunciation documents. I also signed an agreement that both the government and I would not disclose my renunciation in the media.
The decree stated that Ottawa would have to officially request my deportation and that is exactly what my lawyers and embassy did. We got assurances from both governments that it was a matter of days.
Sadly, an announcement from then Canadian foreign minister John Baird, who declared my deportation “imminent,” was premature.
My mixed emotions of joy for my buddy Peter Greste and the feeling of despair for myself got the best of me as I watched him freed while our third colleague Baher Mohamed and I faced a retrial.
The government in Egypt published confirmation of my renunciation of citizenship in the official paper. This was after I had already been wrongly framed as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood — designated a terrorist organization under Egyptian law.
There was never any evidence against me personally and the fact that I protested against the despicable group alongside millions of Egyptians didn’t resonate with the prosecutor who branded me as the ringleader of a terrorist group.
Overnight, I was branded as the man who “sold out” his country. Indeed, it was a first, for an Egyptian to drop his citizenship to get out of prison.
The backlash against me continued because my colleague Baher Mohamed held only Egyptian citizenship. Public opinion crystallized against a law that allows foreigners in the same case, facing the same charges, for the same evidence, to be let off the hook while their Egyptian co-defendants languish in jail.
In court I raised an Egyptian flag to make a point that nationality is not just a piece of paper. Indeed, I am planning to legally reclaim my citizenship at the appropriate time. I just hope Judge Hassan Farid, who is presiding over the retrial, understands that I am no traitor as he announces his new verdict next month.
Meanwhile the Canadian government has implemented a new law that allows ministers to revoke the Canadian citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terrorism. As I face bogus terrorism charges in Egypt, I now have to worry about Canada stripping my citizenship under this dangerous law that overrides the judiciary and tramples due process.
The failure of Stephen Harper’s government to gain my release when I renounced my Egyptian citizenship resonated again last month when the U.S. government won the deportation from Egypt of Mohamed Soltan, an American-Egyptian activist and Brotherhood sympathizer serving a life sentence, who had renounced his Egyptian citizenship secretly before his transfer was announced last month.
As my retrial reaches a conclusion I’m confident that on the basis of the evidence — or lack thereof — we should be acquitted, so that this long and very painful ordeal will be over and I can get on with my life. But I know this trial is influenced by factors other than evidence.
It is still possible that we will take the fall for violations committed by Al Jazeera in failing to obtain a proper operational licence, and that we will pay a heavy price for Qatar’s meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs — its well-documented sponsorship of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
I and my colleague have spent too long as pawns in geopolitical games in which we, as journalists, have no part. Perhaps our situation is a manifestation of the biblical tale of David the shepherd who defeated Goliath the mighty giant using only his slingshot and rock. But, the underdog here is only armed with words of truth and the world’s best lawyers who will hopefully prevail.
Mohamed Fahmy is a Canadian journalist facing a retrial on charges of terrorism.
* Timeline of Egypt’s jailing of Mohamed Fahmy, Toronto Star, June 1, 2015
* New law gives Ottawa the power to revoke citizenship of those convicted of serious crimes, Canadian Press, Friday, May 29, 2015
The federal government says it now has the power to revoke the citizenship of some Canadians convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. A controversial new law, first introduced last June, went into effect on Friday.
The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration says there are several serious crimes that could result in dual citizens losing their Canadian status. The ministry says it would revoke citizenship for anyone found guilty of terrorism, treason and high treason, and spying for a foreign government. The rules would also apply to dual citizens who take up arms against Canada by fighting in a foreign army or joining an international terrorist organization.
The new law has met with strong public criticism, and two Ontario lawyers have already launched a court case arguing it is unconstitutional…
In October, Toronto-based lawyers Paul Slansky and Rocco Galati launched a constitutional court challenge against the new law. Federal Court Judge Donald Rennie dismissed the case earlier this year.
* Egypt court confirms death sentence for ousted president Morsi, Toronto Star, June 16, 2015
An Egyptian court on June 16 confirmed a death sentence handed to ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The court stood by its May 16 preliminary verdict against Morsi, the country’s first freely elected civilian president, after it was ratified by Egypt’s top religious authority. The Islamist politician was convicted in connection with a prison break during the 2011 revolt that toppled his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
The court also sentenced him to life in prison in an espionage case. Both rulings can be appealed…
* Released from jail, ailing Canadian resident still trapped in Egypt, Toronto Star, June 14, 2015
Five months after spending 558 punishing days in detention in Egypt, Canadian resident Khaled Al-Qazzaz is still in Cairo awaiting return to Canada with his wife, Sarah Attia, and their four young children. “Our lawyers are trying to figure out why we’re being held here,” said Canadian-born Attia. “Khaled’s health isn’t good and he’s living on painkillers. Nobody has given us any explanation.”
The family was abruptly stopped at the Cairo airport in April as they tried to board a plane for Toronto. Al-Qazzaz, who was swept up in a wave of arrests following the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, had been detained without charge. After release he was told that he was not under a travel ban.
But the airport security officials who held the family overnight for seven hours without explanation, took apart their luggage and confiscated Al-Qazzaz’s Egyptian passport and the money that was to be used for his surgery and hospital expenses in Toronto. He suffers from serious and painful neck and back injuries aggravated by his time in jail…