Lawyers representing jailed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy have filed an appeal in Egyptian court, a move described as a last-ditch effort to free the man after his arrest eight months ago.
The appeal was filed Wednesday, Mr. Fahmy's brother Adel Fahmy said in an interview, and seeks an overturning of a guilty verdict and a seven-year prison sentence handed down against Mr. Fahmy in June. Egyptian authorities have alleged Mr. Fahmy, in his work as the English-language bureau chief in Cairo for Al Jazeera, was conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood and former president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader who was overthrown last year.
Mr. Fahmy, who has Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, and two other Al Jazeera employees were arrested in a hotel room on Dec. 29. The men and their supporters say they were simply doing their jobs as journalists reporting on Mr. Morsi’s government. All three had been planning appeals, with Mr. Fahmy’s brother saying the move is a final legal step.
“If it fails, god forbid, they will have to serve the sentence. So this is the last hope,” Adel Fahmy told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday. He said his brother is “optimistic that he has a good team handling the appeal. At the same time, he’s very worried. Everything is unclear [including] if the judicial process will be fair enough. It’s a mix of feelings.”
Adel Fahmy said the appeal argues that prosecutors have blocked access to evidence and blocked access to an external expert to assess whether the trio’s work “abides by the ethics of journalism.” The appeal argues the “judgment is based on speculations and assumptions,” based on “illogical and incomprehensible” evidence, including simply the fact he worked for the Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, the brother said.
The Canadian government has stayed largely quiet on the issue, with Foreign Affairs minister John Baird saying he’s avoiding “bullhorn diplomacy” even as other world leaders have called for the journalists’ release. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in June that Canada has “deep concerns, not just about the verdict but about this process from the beginning.”
Adel Fahmy said much of the diplomatic work is ongoing behind the scenes. “They’re never fully disclosed of course,” he said. He is satisfied with the Canadian response thus far, but called for ongoing international pressure to help in pressing Egyptian authorities to expedite his brother's appeal decision, if not his full release.
“We’re hoping for international pressure. We’re in desperate need for it right now more than ever, [hoping] that it will force the Egyptian authorities to expedite the process,” Adel Fahmy said. “...With sufficient diplomatic pressure, we can have a faster process.”
Adel Fahmy said a decision on whether the appeal will be accepted could take weeks or a month. If accepted, it will then proceed to a hearing. If Mr. Fahmy is successful at that stage, the initial conviction is thrown out and the case goes to a retrial, his brother said. The deadline for filing an appeal was Aug. 23.