'It's devastating': Verdict in Fahmy retrial postponed
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, July 30, 2015 4:44AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 30, 2015 12:16PM EDT
Mohamed Fahmy will have to wait a few more days to hear the verdict in his Egyptian terror trial, but that didn't stop him from announcing his long-awaited marriage to his fiancée.
The detained Canadian journalist delivered the good news to friends, supporters and journalists outside a shuttered Cairo courthouse on Thursday, after learning that his verdict had been postponed until at least Aug. 2.
The court had been scheduled to deliver a verdict in Fahmy's case on Thursday morning, but he arrived at the courthouse to find the date had been changed.
"We showed up to the court on time and the doors were not even open," Fahmy told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday in an interview from Egypt.
"It's devastating for all of us," he said.
Fahmy learned through Egyptian media reports that the verdict had been postponed to Aug. 2, in another delay that will stretch his ordeal into its 19th month. The delay comes at the end of Fahmy's long-awaited retrial on terror charges – a retrial that was announced in February and repeatedly postponed over the ensuing months.
"What can I say? The court system in Egypt has proven many times that it's not efficient," Fahmy said.
Tom Henheffer, the executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free expression, said the delay is an example of how "unpredictable" the Egyptian courts can be.
"Obviously, this is very disappointing. It feels like an episode of the 'Twilight Zone.' It seems like this will never end," Henheffer said. "And if it feels like that here, I can only imagine how frustrating this is for Mohamed."
The 41-year-old has been fighting terrorism charges since December of 2013, when he was arrested along with two journalist colleagues for allegedly aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt accused Fahmy and his colleagues of being part of a terrorist group and spreading falsified footage intended to damage national security.
Fahmy, who was the Egypt bureau chief for Al Jazeera English at the time, insists he did no such thing. "Every single report that came out of my bureau was meticulously reviewed by me," he said.
Fahmy and his co-accused, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, were convicted of terrorism in a widely denounced trial in 2014. Greste was extradited to Australia early this year, while Fahmy and Mohammed were granted a retrial and released on bail in February.
Henheffer said his organization hopes that Fahmy the retrial will clear the journalist of the terrorism charges and credit him for time already served.
However, Henheffer said the current political climate makes it difficult to foresee what the courts will decide.
"We're less confident about a positive outcome now than we would have been a couple months ago because of the assassination of the attorney general and the passage of their new anti-terror law," he said.
"They're walking a very fine line and it makes the whole situation very difficult to predict."
While out on bail, Fahmy fought to obtain a temporary Canadian passport so he could marry his longtime fiancée, Marwa Omara.
"I was aiming to get married before I go back to court, just in case I end up back in prison," he said.
Omara has been advocating for Fahmy's release ever since he was arrested. However, she was denied leave to visit him in jail because the two were not married at the time.
"She's been my hero. She's stood beside me," Fahmy said.
Fahmy thanked the Canadian ambassador to Egypt for his help in making the marriage official.
He also thanked NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for pleading his case in open letters to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
On Thursday, Canada's Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular) Lynne Yelich said the government is working to ensure Fahmy's freedom.
"Canadian officials will continue providing consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy and will continue to press Egyptian officials for a resolution on Mr. Fahmy's case," she said in a statement. "Canada calls on the Egyptian government to protect the rights of all individuals, including journalists, in keeping with the spirit of Egypt's new constitution and its transition to democracy."
Fahmy was a dual citizen of Egypt in Canada, but he surrendered his Egyptian citizenship while in jail. He pleaded with the Canadian government for three weeks in April to grant him a temporary passport, after an Egyptian court ruled he was free to obtain one.
Fahmy obtained the passport in late April.