#FreeAJStaff: Witnesses fail to appear for second time, trial postponed to March 19

Monday, March 09, 2015
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Monday, March 9, 2015
By Alexandra Zakreski Yesterday’s session in the retrial of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian journalist Baher Mohamed was a short one, as the trial was postponed due to continued judicial inefficiency. The trial was rescheduled for March 19, when two key police witnesses for the prosecution failed to show up. Defense lawyers for Fahmy and Mohamed had been scheduled to cross-examine the witnesses. The judge fined the missing witnesses each approximately $82 CAD. The stalled proceedings are further evidence that, despite assurances that the trial would be expedited, Fahmy and Mohamed are facing the same kind of kangaroo trial that first convicted them in June 2014. Yesterday’s court date revealed that Fahmy is still yet to be returned his Canadian passport by the Egyptian authorities. The judge issued an order that his Canadian Embassy in Cairo should grant him a new one. When CJFE spoke with Mohamed Fahmy earlier this week, the journalist mentioned that much of the reason he is so eager to have his passport returned is so that he can finally marry his fiancée, Marwa Omara. Earlier this week, Fahmy wrote an op-ed for The Globe and Mail in which he spoke about the confession that was reportedly extracted from Baher Mohamed under duress when they were first arrested. In the confession, Mohamed allegedly said that Al Jazeera had in fact urged them to skew their coverage in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the op-ed, Fahmy also alleged that Al Jazeera deliberately sabotaged his and Baher Mohamed’s legal defense, and that the media organization only reimbursed him for seven percent of his legal fees. This last claim has been refuted by Al Jazeera, and in response to accusations of improper duty of care and negligence, the network has said that they have “done [their] best in an extremely challenging situation to end this ordeal, and did everything possible on safety and security to avoid the jailings in the first place – the severity of which no one could have predicted.” In light of the legal limbo he remains in, Fahmy also remains critical of the Canadian government’s lack of action, saying:
“We, as Canadians, need to realize if this sort of treatment is a precedent, tomorrow more innocent Canadians could be caught up in this political turmoil in the Middle East, if our government presents this mild rhetoric and it’s viewed in that sense, it’s not good for all of us.”
CJFE continues to call on the Egyptian government to drop all charges against Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and to release all journalists and prisoners of conscience currently detained in the country. We further urge Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to update the Canadian public on his efforts to personally speak to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and secure the freedom of Mohamed Fahmy.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Coordinator.

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