An Egyptian court sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists, including a Canadian citizen, to seven years in prison Monday on terrorism-related charges, in a verdict that drew worldwide condemnation but a slow response from Ottawa.
Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and his co-workers -- Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed -- were shocked by the sentence Monday.
"I swear they will pay for this," Fahmy shouted angrily from the crowded defendants' cage after the sentences were announced. The 40-year-old journalist was the most outspoken of the three over the course of their trial.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the verdicts "chilling and draconian" while UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay described it as "obscene and a complete travesty of justice."
The Australian and British governments were also quick to condemn the verdict.
But Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did not release a statement Monday. Instead, hours after the sentencing, Canada's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular Issues Lynne Yelich said she was "disappointed."
“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 the desire of all Egyptians to build a fully democratic country," Yelich said in a statement.
Yelich said that she, along with Baird, would continue to raise Fahmy's case with Egyptian authorities.
Both Amnesty International Canada and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression criticized Ottawa's response to Fahmy's case, saying other governments have been far more forceful in their condemnation of the imprisonments.
"Unfortunately Canada's voice has been absent," Canadian Journalists for Free Expression director Tom Henheffer said. "Our Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has yet to call for Mohamed Fahmy’s release… It's extremely distressing.”
Henheffer pointed to an Arab tradition in which a newly-elected leader will issue some pardons. But he believes the only way Egypt's new President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi could be swayed to grant the journalists a pardon is with political pressure from foreign governments.
Baird has met with Fahmy's family and told them he discussed the case with his Egyptian counterpart. But Canadian officials had warned the family that the journalist's dual citizenship placed limits on how much they could do.
Henheffer said the argument that Fahmy's dual citizenship would limit what can be done on behalf of the Canadian government is "ridiculous."
"(Dual citizenship) should not impact the way he is treated. It should not allow him to rot in an Egyptian jail," he said, adding that it’s a “sad day” for both Egypt and Canada.
Former Canadian diplomat Gar Pardy said the government seems to be “picking and choosing the people that they go all out for” based on citizenship status, which leads to discrimination.
“A Canadian is a Canadian,” he told CTV’s Power Play. “You shouldn’t be picking and choosing who you’re going to help out there, as this government unfortunately has been doing.”
Fahmy’s brother Adel, who was attending the trial, said the family will appeal the verdict. But he has little faith in the Egyptian system.
"Everything is corrupt," he said.
The three journalists worked for news broadcaster Al-Jazeera English when they were arrested on Dec. 29. They were accused of providing a platform for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group of ousted president Mohammed Morsi -- which Egypt's government has branded a terrorist organization.
Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed were also accused of airing falsified footage with the intent of damaging Egypt's national security.
Two British Al Jazeera journalists, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, were tried in absentia and also found guilty.
The Qatar-based network has denied the allegations.
Turton said she was "shocked" to learn of the guilty verdict. She left Egypt in November, about a month before her colleagues were arrested.
"We watched for weeks as the prosecution failed to produce any evidence against us," she told CTV News Channel on Monday from Qatar, where she’s currently working. "The fact the world was watching this trial too, I didn't think the judicial system would turn around and say guilty."
Turton said the jailed journalists were optimistic after their colleague Abdullah Elshamy, who had been on a hunger strike in a Cairo prison for more than four months, walked free earlier this month.
"They walked into that courtroom today and it looked like they were really optimistic," she said. "They really thought they were going to be freed today."
Amnesty has described the trial as "grossly unfair" and called for the unconditional release of the three men.
Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve said the guilty verdicts follow a series of "unfair convictions" and "massive use of the death penalty" in the Egyptian judicial system.
"The prosecution was not really even making any effort to produce evidence to support these outrageous and ridiculous allegations," Neve said.
"What we need to see and hear from Canada is unequivocal and forceful advocacy on behalf of Mr. Fahmy," Neve said. "We have heard ambiguous statements from the Canadian government, at best.
Fahmy covered stories for the New York Times and CNN before working for Al Jazeera. He moved to Canada with his family in 1991.
With files from Christina Commisso