No pardon for journalists

“Bullhorn diplomacy” won’t win the release of Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday in a pointed rebuttal to critics of his government’s response to the imprisonment of the Al-Jazeera journalist.

OTTAWA — “Bullhorn diplomacy” won’t win the release of Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday in a pointed rebuttal to critics of his government’s response to the imprisonment of the Al-Jazeera journalist.

Canada is pursuing all legal avenues to secure the release of Fahmy, the minister told Ottawa radio station CFRA.

The government is working hard to have Fahmy freed on appeal, or through a possible presidential pardon, Baird said.

“We want a successful resolution and I guess either way, critics of the government can win because if we’re loud and vocal, we’re practising bullhorn diplomacy and are not being professional,” Baird said.

“But if we try to take the case directly to the leadership, we’re accused of not standing up. I think you want to pursue the path that would be the most effective to resolving the case.”

The terrorism charges and sentences against Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed have been widely condemned as bogus.

The harsh sentences have been the subject of vocal condemnation by Australian and U.S. politicians, but some critics say the Harper government is too muted in its response.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Tuesday he will not interfere in the rulings and said people should stop criticizing his country’s courts.

Fahmy’s family, the federal New Democrats and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have all urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call the Egyptian president personally.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called el-Sissi to proclaim the innocence of the Australian journalist, while the country’s Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said she was appalled by the severity of the verdict.

“I’ll note that the Australian hasn’t been released either,” Baird said Tuesday.

Baird defended his junior minister, Lynne Yelich, who is responsible for consular affairs. She issued a news release Monday that was widely criticized because it merely said she was very disappointed with the sentence.

Yelich works hard and does a good job, Baird said, while his role as foreign minister is to make representations to his Egyptian counterpart, which he did on a visit to Cairo two months ago.

“We have many cases in Egypt of Canadians that are before the courts,” Baird said without elaborating.

“When I met with the Egyptian foreign minister and had a long discussion of this case, they can’t issue a presidential pardon unless there’s a verdict, and until the appeals are exhausted, so obviously we’re going to stay engaged with this file, with this case,” Baird said.

Baird also confirmed that he and his deputy minister called in Egypt’s ambassador on Monday and issued a formal diplomatic protest.

Baird said Fahmy’s case is complicated by the fact that he is a dual Egyptian and Canadian national and also by the intertwined relationship between Al-Jazeera, its Qatari ownership and Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Fahmy and his two co-accused were convicted of giving a voice to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has labelled a terrorist group. They were accused of harming Egypt’s national security.

The journalists deny the charges, and say they were only doing their jobs.

“One of the challenges of this case is that Al-Jazeera is, of course, funded by the government of Qatar, who is also directly funding the Muslim Brotherhood, and that’s what makes this case more complex and adds a different dimension to it,” said Baird.

He added: “I don’t think anyone believes he’s in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood, but obviously the government of Qatar had a close relationship.”

Just Posted

Red Deer officials will allow Calgary to trial alcohol in parks

The result could determine if local rules are relaxed

RDSO plays ‘rousing’ Scottish tunes to celebrate Robbie Burns Day

Violinist Kai Gleusteen will solo at the Jan. 26 show at RDC Arts Centre

Updated: Sylvan Lake council adopts waterfront plan

Sustainable Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan to guide development for next 20 years

Driver who backed into Red Deer pizzeria sentenced

David Andrew Amstutz sentenced for failing to remain at the crash scene

Shaw getting ready to raise prices for its main residential service, CEO says

CALGARY — Residential customers of Shaw Communications Inc. will likely see a… Continue reading

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

Unruly passenger forces B.C.-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

Inflation rises as higher airfares, veggie prices offset cheaper gas

Statistics Canada says inflation accelerated to two per cent in December

Canadian tattoo artist inks Toronto skyline on Blue Jays pitcher Stroman

Marcus Stroman found a way to show his appreciation for Toronto when… Continue reading

Team World sweeps opening day against Team North America at Continental Cup

LAS VEGAS — Team North America has some serious ground to make… Continue reading

SXSW to screen ‘Run This Town,’ which includes Rob Ford character

TORONTO — A drama that features a portrayal of the late Toronto… Continue reading

Fans buy ‘Little House on the Prairie’ star’s memorabilia

GENOA TOWNSHIP, Mich. — More than 200 items belonging to “Little House… Continue reading

Paying down debt should be priority for low income workers, say experts

TORONTO — Investment planning can often be seen as a luxury for… Continue reading

Most Read