Baird in Egypt to push for Canadian journalist’s release on Thursday

The fate of imprisoned Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy could be decided on Thursday when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird arrives in Cairo.

OTTAWA — The fate of imprisoned Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy could be decided on Thursday when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird arrives in Cairo.

That’s the day Baird meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry after travelling to the tourist city of Luxor on Wednesday to meet with young Egyptians to discuss the country’s future.

A Foreign Affairs news release doesn’t mention Fahmy by name, but says Baird will raise “important consular issues” with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Thursday.

Baird’s office is treading lightly in what could be the final hours of Fahmy’s controversial incarceration, in what appears to be an attempt to avoid scuttling any plans for his possible release.

“Canada has been an ardent supporter of Egypt’s efforts to build a stable, inclusive, prosperous and democratic country based on respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law,” Baird said in a statement after he left Canada.

“This trip will be an opportunity to further advance these priorities.”

Earlier this month, an Egyptian court ordered a retrial for Fahmy and his colleagues, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer, but a date has yet to be set.

Last week, The Canadian Press reported that Fahmy’s family expects him to be deported before a new trial takes place.

Fahmy’s fiancee Marwa Omara told The Canadian Press in an email from Cairo that the paperwork for his deportation was under way, and that a visit by Baird could expedite the process.

Baird has previously said Canada has been working hard behind the scenes to win the release of the Al-Jazeera journalist, who is now in his 13th month in captivity.

Baird has met twice recently with his Egyptian counterpart — most recently in Bahrain — to push for the release of the 40-year-old Fahmy.

Baird has also said that he met with Egypt’s ambassador to Canada in late December to discuss Fahmy’s possible release.

Baird told an Ottawa radio station last month that there has been an ongoing diplomatic effort to free Fahmy, who was arrested in December 2013 along with his two colleagues.

Baird will also meet with Egyptian religious leaders to talk about freedom issues, his office said.

“Canada views Egypt as an important player in the Middle East, as we saw with its work in brokering a ceasefire last year in Gaza,” Baird said in a statement.

On Friday, Baird will visit Israel, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Baird’s office had no comment on his onward itinerary after Egypt. But the Post report said the visit could coincide with an announcement of a joint Israeli-Canadian partnership to use Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defence system for civilian purposes — the first time that military asset would have a civilian application.

The Iron Dome is used to shoot down incoming Hamas rockets from Gaza, but the Post says its underlying technology could be used in Canada for electrical “smart grid” management.

The same algorithms that allow the Iron Dome to respond to incoming missile threats can also be used monitor and control the electrical grid, the Post said.

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