The Egyptian criminal court is just full of surprises, it seems, as court officials announced that the retrial of two Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt will begin on Feb. 12 in the sequel to Egypt's farcical pursuit of "justice." The retrial date threw the fate of the network's Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, who was expected to be released soon, into question. Following the startling deportation of his colleague, Australian Peter Greste, a week before, Fahmy was expected to similarly be deported and returned to Canada. Fahmy held dual citizenship in Egypt and Canada but recently gave up the former in the hopes of being released.
Fahmy's release after Greste's own was widely predicted by the Canadian government — Foreign Minister John Baird said it was "imminent," and the Canadian ambassador told Fahmy's lawyer, Amal Clooney, that it was "a done deal." The reporter's brother, Adel Fahmy, told CBC News on Sunday:
Now my brother has to go through a circus of a retrial again. It's just unbearable. We are devastated.
You know, we are a family that respects the values of the two constitutions and we grew up in Egypt and Canada. To be stripped of your nationality and be placed in the position of, "It's either jail or your nationality," it was not easy for him. Suddenly, he finds himself in a cage again in court. We don't have any sense of what went wrong whatsoever.
Sentenced on charges including spreading false information and helping a terrorist organization — a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood — Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have spent more than 400 days in prison. Greste, who was imprisoned alongside his colleagues, was deported after exactly 400 days. The court ordered a retrial for the journalists last month.
Mohamed, an Al Jazeera producer, is in a more complicated situation due to his sole Egyptian nationality. AP reported that Mohamed's wife, Jehan Rashad, has been campaigning for a foreign citizenship for him in the fear that he would be left languishing in prison while his colleagues were freed. She told the news wire:
I wish that someone can give me another nationality [for Mohamed]. Freedom is more precious than nationality.
Greste was released on Feb. 1, following the November passage of a decree allowing Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi to approve the deportation of foreign prisoners, which appears to have been tailored to the Al Jazeera case. Clooney, the high-profile human rights lawyer, reportedly wrote to al-Sisi and plans to visit Cairo to discuss Fahmy's case.
Egypt has accused Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood — a claim that the network denies. The three journalists, detained in 2013, said that their imprisonment bolstered the view of human rights groups that the government was diminishing the freedoms gained after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that ousted the dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Following the announcement of the Feb. 12 retrial date, an Al Jazeera spokesperson said:
Baher and Mohamed have been unjustly jailed for over a year, even though the entire world knows they are innocent. With a date now set for the retrial the Egyptian authorities know exactly what to do — throw the entire case out and give Baher and Mohamed their freedom which has been denied to them for more than 400 days.
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