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Mohamed Fahmy may be released within hours: report
Mohamed Fahmy could soon be released from the Cairo prison where he has been detained for more than a year, the day after his family confirmed he had given up his Egyptian citizenship.
The Canadian journalist could be free and on his way to Canada within hours, according to a report Tuesday from Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based broadcaster Fahmy worked for.
"At this point, it is very much a waiting game," CTV News' Daniele Hamamdjian reported from Cairo Tuesday. "Mohamed Fahmy and his fiance wait, and we wait with them."
Hamamdjian said that, if freed, Fahmy could have as few as 30 minutes to pack his belongings before he and his fiancée are escorted to the airport.
On Monday, Fahmy's family confirmed that he had renounced his Egyptian citizenship.
Authorities told Fahmy that in order for him to be deported out of Egypt, he'd have make the difficult decision to give up his Egyptian citizenship, Hamamdjian said.
"He comes from a family that is very patriotic, that has a lot of military history. (It was) something that he did not want to do, but he had no choice," she said.
Fahmy has been imprisoned since December 2013, after Egyptian authorities accused him of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood group. Fahmy has denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly said that he was simply working in Cairo as a journalist for Al-Jazeera English at the time.
Fahmy's Australian colleague, Peter Greste, was released over the weekend. The two were arrested together, along with Egyptian Baher Mohamed.
Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian diplomat and distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation, said that giving up his Egyptian citizenship was likely the key to securing Fahmy's release.
When a person has a second citizenship, they are treated like a local in the country of the second citizenship, rather than as a Canadian, he told CTV's Canada AM.
"It's very difficult for the Canadian government to do anything about that," he said.
"Giving up the citizenship, I think, is essential and not a decision that's easily made by the person who has to make it. But that does then make him a Canadian only, and allows the Canadian government to put more persuasion in and bring him home."
Heinbecker noted that the Canadian and Australian government used two different approaches to free the journalists, with the Australian government being "substantially louder" – though he doesn't know if that made any difference.
He said that the Canadian government showed a high level of engagement in Fahmy's case, with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird meeting several times with his Egyptian authorities.
"I think the Canadian government handled this the way it ought to have been handled," Heinbecker said. "There are no 'one-size diplomacy fits all' circumstances, and I think the Canadians calculated that this was the best way to proceed."