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Canada welcomes Egypt’s release of journalist

September 23, 2015

Canadian political leaders Wednesday welcomed Egypt’s pardon of Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, but added that it was long overdue.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned the Canadian and his colleague Baher Mohamed among 100 prisoners freed after his government was criticized for harsh treatment of its supposed opponents.

The two journalists were also released from prison on Wednesday.

Canada’s government said it would help Fahmy leave Egypt immediately, while opposition leaders campaigning ahead of October 19 elections conveyed both relief and frustration that it took so long.

“After months spent languishing in prison, we are very pleased to see progress in Mr. Fahmy’s case,” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said.

His comments were echoed by Green Party leader Elizabeth May who said she was relieved that Fahmy was to be released but added that “he should never have been sentenced in the first place.”

In a Twitter message, New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair wished Fahmy “a safe trip home to Canada.”

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is seeking a fourth mandate, had faced criticism over his government’s failure to secure Fahmy’s release sooner.

One day after Fahmy’s Australian colleague Peter Greste was released in February, then Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Fahmy’s release was “imminent” after “highest level” talks between Canada and Egypt.

The arrangement required Fahmy, a dual citizen, to renounce his Egyptian citizenship, which he did promptly the next day.

But then without any explanation he remained in prison.

In August, Fahmy and Mohamed were sentenced in a retrial to three years for allegedly fabricating false news in support of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the army removed from power in 2013 and outlawed.

Australian reporter Peter Greste was also convicted, although he had been deported by presidential decree.

Their detention and trial sparked global criticism of Sisi, who has said he wished the journalists had been deported from the outset rather than put on trial.

Pressure group Canadian Journalists For Free Expression on Wednesday called Fahmy’s release “a great victory for press freedom in Egypt and around the world.”

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