Egyptian-Canadian journalist's request to be released denied
Published Monday, March 31, 2014 8:04AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 31, 2014 2:59PM EDT
An Egyptian-Canadian journalist held in an Cairo jail since late December was finally given a chance to speak to an Egyptian judge directly Monday, asking him for release alongside his two co-accused journalist colleagues. But the judge denied their request.
Mohamed Fahmy, along with Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, had his fourth hearing Monday since his arrest. The trio had hopes they would be released on bail, especially when they were allowed to step out of the cage that serves as the prisoner's box in Egyptian trials, Fahmy's brother Adel Fahmy said.
"The judge made a good gesture by allowing the defendants out of the cage and to speak freely about their situation and how this case is unfounded. This was an unexpected gesture that built up our hopes," Adel told CTV News Channel, speaking from Cairo.
The three told the judge that the terrorism-related charges against them were false and they were not providing a platform to the Muslim Brotherhood, as authorities accuse. They said they were simply doing their job as journalists and were not working for the group of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, which has been declared a terrorist organization.
Fahmy approached the bench and told him he was an alcohol-drinking liberal who lived abroad for a long time, stating he was not a member of the Brotherhood.
"Have you ever heard of a (Muslim) terrorist that drinks alcohol?" he asked.
But the judge did not accept the journalists' requests for release or bail. He ordered forensic examination of the defendants, and adjourned the session until April 10.
The judge and the defence had been scheduled to review videos that police claim show footage was altered by the trio in a way that falsified news and threatened Egypt's national security.
But Adel Fahmy says police did not set up the equipment to view the evidence.
"For the third consecutive time, they had not prepared the courtroom for the display of the evidence," Adel said. "So for close to a third of a year, they've proceeded without any evidence being presented. That's what really frustrating Mohammed and his colleagues."
Fahmy and the other two journalists were arrested on Dec. 29 at their hotel room in Cairo, where they were working for Al Jazeera after their office was raided following Morsi's ouster last summer.
The government accuses Al Jazeera of being biased in favour of Morsi and his group, which the network denies.
Greste told the judge that the accusation that he is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood was "frankly preposterous." He said he was an award-winning journalist with years of experience and that he constitutes no threat to anyone in Egypt. He added that he had been in the country only two weeks before his arrest.
Mohammed told the judge "to have mercy on us," adding his wife was pregnant and he wanted to be with her.
The trio were picked up along with 17 others, most of whom are Brotherhood supporters.
One of those arrested, the son of prominent Brotherhood leader Mohammed el-Beltagy, told the judge Monday that the three journalists were not part of their group.
"He clearly said, 'We do not know these journalists. How are we grouped together with them in this case?'" Adel said.
Fahmy suffered from a fractured arm before his arrest, and has asked to be released to receive better medical attention for his injury, which he says has deteriorated.
Adel says his brother was able to have an MRI on his arm and shoulder, which confirmed the initial diagnosis of an improper alignment and fusing of the humerus bone.
He says his brother is doing "extensive physiotherapy" but that doctors say he may need surgery.
With reports from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press