Canada must advocate for Mohamed Fahmy's release during visit to Egypt

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P., Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
2249 Carling Ave., Suite 418
Ottawa, Ontario
K2B 7E9

Dear Minister,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is deeply troubled by the news that you will be traveling to Egypt from April 17-18 and meeting with the interim government in Cairo to discuss economic and security issues, and have made no mention of the case of imprisoned Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy. Fahmy, along with his fellow Al Jazeera English colleagues Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, has been languishing in prison since December 29, 2013. Last Monday, April 7, 2014, marked the 100th day that Fahmy and his colleagues have spent in prison. Despite guarantees from the Canadian embassy that Fahmy will make no attempts to flee the country the Egyptian government continues to deny his well-founded requests for bail. This injustice has been perpetuated repeatedly, even though the journalists have neither been accused of violent crimes, nor have they presented any threat to Egypt or its citizens.

The international community has spoken out decisively against the detention of these journalists, yet the Canadian government has failed to lend their voice to the chorus. In light of the litany of disturbing human rights violations reported in Egypt in recent months, it is our hope that you will voice the concerns of many that the interim Egyptian government is attempting to stifle opposition and is flouting its obligations under international law.

As the official aim of this trip is to discuss “how Canada can most effectively stand with and support Egyptians […] in their efforts to build a stable, inclusive, prosperous and democratic Egypt,” priority must be placed on the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience, including Mohamed Fahmy. Canada has historically maintained a strong voice in matters of human rights and democratic values, and a free press is integral to the establishment of a healthy, substantive democracy in Egypt. The right to free expression is a fundamental human right, and Mohamed Fahmy has not committed any crime.

We strongly urge you to take advantage of this meeting with political representatives in Egypt to advocate for the release of Mohamed Fahmy, and for the baseless charges against him to be dropped.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Arnold Amber, CJFE President