#FreeAJStaff: "Circus of a retrial" stalls, adjourned to March 8

Monday, February 23, 2015
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Monday, February 23, 2015
By Alexandra Zakreski The retrial of Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed reconvened today in Cairo, marking the first time the journalists have appeared in court since they were granted bail on February 13. Two witnesses for the prosecution failed to appear, forcing the judge to adjourn the retrial until March 8 in a frustrating echo of the journalists’ original trial. Speaking to journalists as he left the courtroom, Fahmy explained that today’s events have left him “demoralized about [the possibility of the retrial] resulting in a positive outcome.” This is particularly true considering that in the 10 days since he was released on bail, Fahmy had met with Egyptian officials and Canadian Ambassador to Egypt Troy Lulashnyk who assured him that the retrial would be expedited. In another confusing development, it was revealed that Egyptian officials have still not returned his Canadian passport. Since Fahmy was forced to return his Egyptian identifications when he renounced his Egyptian citizenship, he’s currently without any citizenship papers of any kind. This has the potential to compromise Fahmy’s security if he is stopped at a checkpoint and he’s unable to produce any proof of identification. Judge Hassan Farid, presiding over Fahmy’s trial, instead ordered that Fahmy be returned a photocopy of the passport, suggesting to many that the Egyptian government has lost the original document. Fahmy has reportedly researched Judge Farid and is “concerned” by what he’s found, hinting at potential bias. CBC’s Sasa Petricic confirmed this, saying The issue of bias against the defendants has been an issue since the journalists’ first trial; the judge who originally convicted Fahmy and his colleagues said in a statement following the guilty verdict that he believed that the three journalists were “brought together by the devil” to use their work to destabilize Egypt. Fahmy also unleashed criticism against his employer Al Jazeera following his court appearance, stating The journalist has previously said that Al Jazeera was guilty of “epic negligence” in failing to ensure that its journalists were properly accredited to work in Egypt. Fahmy also alleges that the network made a grave error in cross-posting content that Fahmy produced for Al Jazeera English to Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, the Egyptian channel banned in the country for reporting perceived as favourable to the Muslim Brotherhood. In another disheartening development further indicative of the broader attitude towards free expression in Egypt, famed dissident and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison today. He had been charged with violating a draconian protest law stemming from a demonstration that he attended in November 2013. 24 other defendants were sentenced to three to five years in prison for the same charges; Abdel Fattah plans to appeal the verdict with Egypt’s court of cassation. Today’s events reveal the endemic flaws in the Egyptian judicial system which endanger the possibility of Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed achieving justice in the case against them. CJFE strongly urges the Canadian government to ensure the swift and safe transfer of Mohamed Fahmy to Canada, and for the Egyptian government to drop all charges against both journalists.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Coordinator.

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