Thursday, February 12, 2015
By Alexandra Zakreski Updated: Mohamed Fahmy rejoined his family later Thursday evening, while Baher Mohamed was released immediately following his court appearance.
I AM FREE— Baher Ghorab (@Bahrooz) February 12, 2015
The retrial of Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed began today in an Egyptian court. The first session lasted for just over an hour, and ended with the two journalists being granted bail for the first time since they were arrested on December 29, 2013. Following the conclusion of the court session, Fahmy’s fiancée Marwa Omara expressed her joy and relief at finally being able to spend time with her fiancé, saying “I want to see him with me. I want to have a romantic dinner with him. Go to the beach. Dance, enjoy life.” While the release on bail is welcome news, particularly to the journalists’ families, the two still face charges of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news, and will return to court on February 23. Fahmy reluctantly dropped his Egyptian citizenship last week in the hopes that it would qualify him for deportation under the same presidential decree as Peter Greste, his Australian colleague. Greste was released and deported on February 1. Fahmy briefly held up an Egyptian flag while speaking to the judge today, signifying that he is still strongly connected to his birth country. There were multiple signals from government officials in the days after Greste’s release that Fahmy would be freed “imminently,” which is why it came as a devastating surprise when Fahmy and Mohamed were ordered to retrial. In the wake of this morning’s announcement that both journalists had been granted bail, Canadian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular Services Lynne Yelich released a statement that the Canadian government “[continues] to call for [Fahmy’s] immediate and full release,” adding that “The prospect of Mr. Fahmy standing retrial is unacceptable and Canada advocates for the same treatment of Mr. Fahmy as other foreign nationals.” No doubt responding to the #HarperCallEgypt campaign launched by Fahmy’s family which requested that Canadian Prime Minister Harper personally call Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and demand Fahmy’s release, Minister Yelich further clarified that the Prime Minister has “personally raised [Fahmy’s case]…19 times in the last two weeks.” Fahmy’s family posted bail equivalent to approximately $41,000 CAD shortly after the end of today’s court session. However, Fahmy is still not free and it could take several days to process his release. Baher Mohamed, for his part, is not required to pay a bail fee. Under the terms of their bail, both journalists will be required to remain in their “home towns,” and to report to a local police station each day. Some observers have commented that it is unusual for individuals charged with terrorism offences to be released on bail, particularly considering that the journalists were never granted bail during their initial trial on the same charges. Although the reasons for this are unclear, it could suggest that the prosecutors are beginning to minimize and wrap up the case. However, the future for the journalists still remains uncertain, as they remain falsely accused of charges that could result in significant jail time. While CJFE celebrates the temporary reunion of the two journalists’ families, we continue to call on the Egyptian government to drop all charges against the journalists and ensure their unconditional and permanent freedom. The retrial of Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed will resume February 23.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Coordinator.
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