An Egyptian court is about to see evidence that prosecutors say links an imprisoned Canadian journalist and his colleagues to the banned Muslim Brotherhood – evidence that has not been shown to the accused men or their lawyers.
Mohamed Fahmy, the English-language bureau chief in Cairo for the Al Jazeera television network, holds both Egyptian and Canadian citizenship. He and two of his colleagues – Australian reporter Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed – have been jailed since Dec. 29 on charges of conspiring to tarnish Egypt’s international reputation.
The three men will be back in court on Thursday, when prosecutors say they will reveal video evidence against the men. The prosecution demanded last week that the defence pay 1.2 million Egyptian pounds (approximately $183,000 Canadian) to view copies of the material.
The amount “was unprecedented. It’s absolutely insane,” Mr. Fahmy’s brother, Adel Fahmy, said in a telephone interview from Egypt on Wednesday. “This is an intentional obstacle by the prosecution so that the lawyers cannot prepare properly for the defence.”
When lawyers for the journalists complained to the judge about the price being demanded, the prosecutors were ordered to allow the defence attorneys into their offices to view the videos. But, Adel Fahmy said, “the lawyers went over there this week and the prosecution refused even to let them see the evidence.”
The prosecutors instead said it would be displayed in court on Thursday, he said.
The court is also expected to hear Thursday from three specialists who analyzed the content of the equipment found in the hotel room where the journalists were arrested. The specialists have submitted individual reports to the court that Adel Fahmy says are identical.
“It was, word for word, cut and paste,” he said. “Which goes to show how corrupt this whole thing is.”
Mohamed Fahmy, who faces 15 years in prison, previously worked for CNN and the BBC and is the author of Egyptian Freedom Story, an account of the 2011 Arab Spring. He moved to Canada with his family 20 years ago.
A fourth imprisoned Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, is said to be in dire health after spending four months on a hunger strike. He was arrested in August, 2013, but has never been charged.
Farag Fathy and two other lawyers hired by Qatar-based Al Jazeera to defend Mr. Greste and Mr. Mohamed pulled out of the trial last week after the network sued Egypt for $150-million (U.S.) over the mistreatment of the journalists and the disruption to Al Jazeera’s business activities. Mr. Fathy told the judge that he could not continue to defend the journalists when their employer was “insulting” Egypt.
“For him to save his image in front of the media and the Egyptian public, he said ‘I am pulling out,’” explained Adel Fahmy.
Khaled Abubakr, the lawyer for Mr. Fahmy, remains on the case, as does another lawyer who continues to represent Mr. Greste and Mr. Mohamed.
Mr. Abubakr told the judge last week about the 2014 Press Freedom Award given to Mr. Fahmy earlier this month by the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom. The judge appeared indifferent, said Adel Fahmy. “He is trying to always give a cold face.”
Mr. Fahmy has also received several letters of support from high-profile people within Egypt, including Amr Moussa, a former secretary-general of the Arab League and presidential candidate.
The case of the detained Al Jazeera journalists has prompted international concern, with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders calling for their release. John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said he raised the matter of Mr. Fahmy’s imprisonment with Egyptian officials when he was in Egypt last month.