Canadians Tarek Loubani (firstname.lastname@example.org) and John Greyson were detained in Egypt in 2013.
When we were thrown in an Egyptian jail in August, 2013, we became political prisoners of the Abdel Fatah el-Sisi-led Egyptian dictatorship.
Our friends and family understood that the solution to our imprisonment was also political, and their campaign pressed the Canadian government to demand our release. After 50 long days in squalid conditions, our freedom was won. The victory was thanks to the Canadian people who demanded it from their elected officials.
Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy and his journalist colleagues have experienced what we were destined to experience – if not for that victory. Their conviction was blasted by Canada’s Ambassador to Egypt, who shared a common belief among spectators that the defence team successfully proved the innocence of Mr. Fahmy and his 12 co-defendants. He was joined in his condemnation by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Amnesty International, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and others. This “complete sham” of a trial, as Amnesty called it, included a dozen completely unrelated co-defendants and literally no evidence against them. These journalists were convicted for nothing more than being journalists.
There is every reason to believe their seven- and 10-year sentences will be carried out. Egyptian prisons are littered with forgotten prisoners whose ranks Mr. Fahmy will now join if we do not intervene. If not for the public outcry so far, they might easily have been sentenced to death like the many hundreds against whom evidence has been equally laughable.
As like with our case, Mr. Fahmy is a political prisoner of the Egyptian dictatorship, and so the solution to his imprisonment must also be political. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper must loudly and vigorously contest this unfair trial and sanction the Egyptian dictatorship.
We cannot accept mild declarations like Mr. Baird’s “deeply troubled, or the “we do not want to insult them” from the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary. Egypt would find it difficult to gain international legitimacy if not for the support of Canada and other Western governments – such as Mr. Baird’s recognition of recent elections as a “key step along Egypt’s path to democracy.” That same election, incidentally, was described by Human Rights Watch as occurring in “a repressive environment that severely undermines the fairness of the elections.”
Mr. Harper and Mr. Baird must demand Mr. Fahmy’s release loudly and publicly, as they demanded ours.
But they won’t without the pressure of Canadian citizens everywhere.