Family of jailed Egyptian-Canadian journalist 'disappointed' after bail denied again
Rubab Abid, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Saturday, May 3, 2014 11:17AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 3, 2014 2:42PM EDT
A Canadian-Egyptian journalist imprisoned in Egypt is celebrating World Press Freedom Day behind bars after a judge denied his second appeal for bail on Saturday.
Mohamed Fahmy, a journalist for the satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera English, was arrested by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29, 2013, along with his colleagues Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed.
The three men, as well as 17 other journalists, are facing terrorism-related charges based on claims made by Egyptian authorities that the men aired footage promoting ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood – a group the government has declared a terrorist organization.
The three journalists are charged with spreading false news, belonging to a terrorist group and operating without a permit.
Fahmy made a rare appearance in court on Saturday, urging Judge Mohamed Nagi Shehata to grant him bail. His request was swiftly denied as the judge wished him and his colleagues a “happy” World Press Freedom Day.
Adel Fahmy, Mohamed’s brother, was in court for the hearing and said that while his family is disappointed by today’s decision, they are not surprised.
“Of course it is very disappointing, but we’ve come to realize that this bail is not a possibility in this case, in a high-stakes security case. But hopefully we’re close to the end,” he told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
Adel Fahmy noted his brother was granted a chance to speak before the judge and took the opportunity to defend himself and his work as a reporter.
“He explained to the judge what professional, objective journalism is and he emphasized that this is exactly what he practices,” he said. “He also explained to the judge that Al-Jazeera English is a certified entity in Egypt, it is not banned of operating in Egypt.”
Fahmy said the charges against him are unfounded and argued that, as a journalist, he kept in contact with Egyptian officials from all sides of political spectrum.
“He has acquaintance with officials in the military and state security, like lieutenants and majors and officers. This contradicts completely the charges they’re laying against him of conspiring with an unlawful group or terrorist group,” Adel Fahmy explained.
The jailed journalist also noted that he had not seen his legal team in two weeks and had not had a chance to review the evidence against him with his lawyer.
On Thursday, Fahmy was awarded the prestigious World Press Freedom Award by the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom.
The organization noted that Fahmy was “a passionate journalist and advocate of press freedom who is facing retribution and censorship for exercising his right to free expression.”
In a hand-written message smuggled out of a jail, Fahmy said he was honoured by the recognition and hoped the award would help build a case for his release.
“The recognition not only brought joy, but it also lifted the morale of my two colleagues with whom I share a cell,” Fahmy wrote.
“I strongly believe that diplomatic pressure in addition to efforts of press freedom advocates does send a clear message to those judging us in court.”
Fahmy was also given a $2,000 prize, which he donated to the family of a young Egyptian journalist killed while covering clashes between security forces and the opposition protesters last month.
A worldwide campaign has been launched in protest of the detention of journalists in Egypt.
In a letter sent to Egyptian President Adly Mansour in January, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on the government to release all detained journalists. The committee said at the time at least five journalists had been killed, 45 assaulted, 44 detained and 11 news outlets raided in Egypt since Morsi's overthrow.
Adel Fahmy said his brother warned the judge that the world is watching and taking note of Egypt’s treatment of journalists.
“Mohamed mentioned to the judge that today is World Press Freedom day and that the world is watching closely this trial, today more than ever before.”
Fahmy’s next court date is set for May 15.
With files from The Associated Press