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Mohamed Fahmy files $100M lawsuit against Al-Jazeera
Published Monday, May 11, 2015 11:33AM EDT Last Updated Monday, May 11, 2015 3:35PM EDT
A Canadian journalist on trial for widely denounced terror charges in Egypt is suing his employer, Al Jazeera Media Network, alleging the Qatar-based broadcaster's actions significantly contributed to his legal woes.
Mohamed Fahmy said Monday he's seeking $100 million in damages.
Fahmy, who was the acting bureau chief of the Al Jazeera English channel in Cairo when he was arrested in December 2013, accused the media network of negligent conduct, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.
"They don't seem to understand that they cannot continue to challenge the sovereignty of governments, put the story ahead of the safety of their employees, and assume that they will continue to get away with it," Fahmy said as he announced the lawsuit in Cairo.
"I will sue them at any cost, and I will win."
Al Jazeera is owned by the Qatari government -- a fact which is emphasized in Fahmy's lawsuit.
Egypt and Qatar have had tense relations since 2013, when the Egyptian military ousted former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. Qatar is a strong backer of Morsi's now-banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group.
Fahmy's statement of claim, filed in a British Columbia court, alleges Al Jazeera used its Egypt-focused Arabic channel, known as Al Jazeera Mubashr Misr, as "a thinly veiled mouthpiece" to promote propaganda of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The document also notes that various Al Jazeera staff were arrested in Cairo for working without proper accreditation months before Fahmy's troubles began, and that its Arabic channel had been banned in Egypt.
"Given the Egyptian political and legal situation and the fact that four AJE journalists and an administrative assistant had been arrested and detained in the summer of 2013, the network knew or ought to have known that the arrest and imprisonment of Fahmy and other AJE Cairo Bureau staff was a foreseeable consequence of the network's antagonistic and unlawful practices," said the statement of claim said, which contains allegations that have not been proven in court.
Al Jazeera said Fahmy should be targeting his captors, not his employer.
"It's sad to see Fahmy and his lawyer repeating criticisms of Al Jazeera made by the Egyptian authorities," the media company said in a statement provided to The Canadian Press. "All governments have news outlets that they don't like, but they don't use spurious grounds to put journalists in jail. If Fahmy wants to seek monetary compensation from anyone, it should be from his jailers."
Fahmy's Canadian lawyers argue, however, that Al Jazeera needs to be held accountable.
"Had Fahmy known that Egyptian laws that could result in imprisonment or death were being breached, there's not much question that he would got his team out of there and wouldn't have been associated with it," Fahmy's Canadian lawyer, Joanna Gislason, told The Canadian Press from Cairo. "He wasn't able to make that choice for himself."
Gislason added that Fahmy was just trying to do his job as a journalist when he was swept up in what he's alleging is a political spat between Egypt and Qatar.
"He feels he's been a pawn in that battle," said Gislason. "Because of the view of Qatar in Egypt, Fahmy himself became demonized when his content from the respected international Al Jazeera English network was being blurred and co-mingled with that (Arabic channel), which in fact had been banned."
Fahmy's statement of claim alleges that Al Jazeera also failed or refused to make "reasonable efforts" to secure his acquittal or release, and failed to provide him with sufficient legal assistance."
It also alleges that his arrest, conviction, imprisonment and bail have caused him "severe pain, suffering, stress, anxiety, emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder."
The lawsuit comes as Fahmy is currently undergoing his second trial in Egypt after a successful appeal of his earlier convictions. He is accusing of being part of a terrorist group and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.
One of his colleagues --Australian Peter Greste -- was suddenly released from prison in February under a law which allows for the deportation of foreigners convicted of crimes.
Fahmy gave up his dual Egyptian citizenship for what he thought was a requirement to be deported under the same law but he remained in prison.
He and his Egyptian co-worker Baher Mohamed then began their second trial and were granted bail shortly after it started.