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Jazeera’s Fahmy urges Canada to press Egypt for speedy deportation

February 14, 2015

Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy said Saturday he has urged Canada to push for his speedy deportation from Egypt after he spent more than 400 days in a tiny prison cell.

On Thursday, a court ordered that Fahmy and his colleague, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, be freed pending their retrial.

They were released on Friday.

The ruling came after an appeals court overturned a previous jail sentence of up to 10 years handed down by a lower court that convicted them and their Australian colleague Peter Greste of aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Greste has already been deported.

Fahmy, released after paying bail of $33,000 (28,950 euros), was told to renounce his Egyptian citizenship to secure his deportation, but still finds himself having to attend a retrial hearing on February 23.

On Saturday, Fahmy told AFP in an interview that he and his family have asked Canada to secure his deportation before the next hearing.

“I called the Canadian ambassador and thanked him for responding to our urgent requests… that the Prime Minister contacts President (Abdel Fattah al-) Sisi” to get him deported quickly, Fahmy said at his home in Cairo.

Ottawa’s envoy “promised me that he is working really hard on the case to try to deport me before the next hearing”, he said.

The case of the three Al-Jazeera journalists, who were arrested in December 2013, has been a major source of embarrassment for Sisi as he seeks to shore up international support following a widely condemned crackdown on Egypt’s opposition.

Fahmy, a dual national, renounced his Egyptian citizenship to benefit from a law that allows the deportation of foreign defendants, and under which Greste was released.

He said at the retrial’s first session on Thursday that he was asked by a security official to drop his Egyptian nationality in order to secure his release.

But Fahmy said he was disappointed to find himself facing retrial despite renouncing his citizenship.

“My bags were packed but nobody called me… I saw the news that I’m going to court on TV,” a tired looking Fahmy said on Saturday.

“It’s very hard for a prisoner to be told to leave prison and then the next day he finds out he is going to court.”

He said he had been held in solitary confinement in the days after his initial arrest, and called the experience like being “in hell”.

The three journalists were later moved to Cairo’s Tora prison along with 15 senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including the movement’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie.

“The three of us were in the same cell — we called it the shoebox. It was very small but… we co-existed together, we are like brothers now,” Fahmy said.

The three employees of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera English channel were initially charged with spreading false news about Egypt and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Their arrest and continued detention sparked widespread condemnation and calls for their release, led by Washington and the United Nations.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.