Imprisoned Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is trying to be strong, but his wife says he’s having a hard time after being thrown behind bars yet again.
Marwa Omara has only been able to visit her husband once since he was sentenced to three years in prison for widely denounced terror-related offences on Aug. 29, and she says the 41-year-old is suffering.
“He’s trying to look strong, but I know as his wife that he’s in pain,” she told The Canadian Press in an interview Tuesday. “Prison is very tough, especially when you’re an innocent man and you’re just a journalist doing your job.”
It’s the second time Fahmy has been incarcerated in the same case — an ordeal which began when he and two colleagues were arrested in December 2013 while working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English in Cairo.
The trio spent more than a year in prison before an appeal of their convictions resulted in a second trial, although one of them, an Australian, was abruptly deported. Fahmy and his other colleague, an Egyptian, were granted bail during their retrial, which culminated in last month’s shocking verdict.
Omara is now imploring the federal government to get her husband out of the country and hopes a letter sent to the prime minister by some 300 prominent Canadians urging action on the case will help.
The letter sent to Stephen Harper on Tuesday calls on him to act directly to secure Fahmy’s release.
“The world knows that Mr. Fahmy is an innocent man trapped in a political nightmare,” said the letter signed by former prime minister Paul Martin and former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour among others.
“We urge you, as Canada’s prime minister, to communicate directly with President (Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi the need to have Mr. Fahmy returned home safely and swiftly. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be Canadian that we defend the rule of law and protect our fellow citizens from harm.”
The letter came just days after the Egyptian court which convicted Fahmy and his co-worker released the reasons it found the men guilty.
The court said Fahmy and his colleagues were by default members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group — which Egypt consider a terrorist organization — because their employer, Al Jazeera, “has dedicated its broadcasting to the service and support of the Muslim Brotherhood faction.”
Al Jazeera is owned by Qatar, which has had a tense relationship with Egypt ever since the Egyptian military ousted the country’s former president Mohamed Morsi amid massive protests. Qatar is a strong backer of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Ottawa has formally asked Egypt’s president to pardon Fahmy or allow his deportation to Canada, but Omara said she hasn’t seen any progress on either of those fronts.
“We don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes,” she said. “One night that Mohamed spends in prison is too much. It’s unacceptable and he should be released as soon as possible.
Fahmy’s lawyers are also working on an appeal but the family is hoping for a political resolution to the case, Omara said, one which she is prepared to travel to Ottawa to push for in a few weeks if needed.
“I don’t have an option,” she said. I’ll meet with everyone and do everything I can and seek support. Seek help from the government. Seek help from anyone.“
The Department of Foreign Affairs has said Canadian government officials have raised the case with Egyptian officials “at the highest level” and would continue to do so while calling on Egypt to use “all tools” at its disposal to resolve Fahmy’s case.