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Conservative leader Stephen Harper makes a campaign stop in Montreal on Tuesday. On one measure of economic prowess, Mr. Harper’s Conservatives remain on top: More Canadians pick them as the best party to manage the economy.Sean Kilpatric/The Canadian Press

Ottawa has petitioned the Egyptian government for the pardon and deportation of jailed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, according to his brother – the latest development in an 18-month ordeal that has highlighted Cairo's crackdown on free speech, sparked widespread condemnation of Egypt's judicial system and put Canada's diplomatic efforts under a microscope.

Canada's move comes one day after the former Al Jazeera English bureau chief was sentenced to three years in a high-security prison, crushing any hopes that a retrial would end the high-profile saga and raising questions about what Canada would do next to try to secure Mr. Fahmy's release.

In an interview with The Globe in Cairo on Sunday, Mr. Fahmy's brother, Adel Fahmy, said Canadian Ambassador Troy Lulashnyk told him he had met with Egyptian officials and that Ottawa had officially applied for the pardon and deportation. He said he has finally learned where his brother is being held – at Cairo's Mazraa prison – but added the family has been told there would be no visitation for 15 days.

The Canadian embassy, Adel Fahmy said, has submitted a special visitation request so the family can see him sooner. "I just want to comfort him so he knows we are on things and that there are other possibilities," he said.

Mr. Fahmy's wife broke down in tears as she left the courtroom, saying her husband was only doing his job before being arrested in December, 2013, on a range of terrorism-related charges, including fabricating news to harm Egypt's national security. "I don't know how I'm going to survive this without him," said Marwa Omara, who pleaded unsuccessfully with police to let her say goodbye to her husband. "He did nothing [wrong] and all that I'm asking [for] is justice."

The long-running Fahmy case has reverberated across the region and in Canada: Mr. Fahmy has said he and his colleagues are pawns in a rift between Egypt and Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera Media Network; Cairo summoned Britain's Ambassador John Casson Sunday to protest comments he made about the case to local media in Arabic, saying his words marked "unacceptable interference" in the judiciary; and with an election 50 days away here in Canada, Stephen Harper's political opponents reiterated accusations that the Conservatives are not doing enough to secure Mr. Fahmy's release.

Speaking about the application for pardon and deportation, Adel Fahmy said he was "happy that right away there was action from Canada," but it remains uncertain just how responsive the Egyptian government would be to such pressure. Analysts believe Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is viewing the case through the lens of domestic dynamics, rather than of external factors.

"The international relationships that Cairo is building in the West are not threatened by an unsatisfactory resolution to this case, despite the media and public statements," said H.A. Hellyer, a non-resident fellow at Washington's Brookings Center for Middle East Policy and an associate fellow at London's Royal United Services Institute.

Mr. Harper did not immediately offer public comments on the sentence or the government's diplomatic efforts, save for a tweet Saturday. "Canada continues to call on Egypt for the immediate and full release of Mr. Fahmy, and full co-operation to facilitate his return home," the tweet said. Mr. Harper did not have any public events Sunday, so journalists did not have the opportunity to ask him directly about the case or next steps.

Mr. Fahmy, his producer Baher Mohamed and Australian journalist Peter Greste were convicted of a slew of technical charges as well as charges of broadcasting false news. Mr. Greste, who had been deported in January under a presidential decree, was not present for Saturday's proceedings, but was nonetheless sentenced to three years in jail after the judge refused to remove his name from the case.

"They are not journalists," Judge Hassan Farid said in delivering the verdict to a packed courtroom inside Cairo's notorious Tora prison. The defence has 60 days to file an appeal in the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appeals court.

Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Mohamed listened from a soundproof cage and were immediately taken away by police. Ms. Omara, Mr. Lulashnyk and Amal Clooney – the human-rights barrister representing Mr. Fahmy internationally – sat together as the sentence was delivered. The trio had to push through a pack of journalists on their way out of the courtroom, where the Canadian ambassador provided a rare public comment on the case.

"Obviously Canada is deeply disappointed in the outcome of this process," he said. "We are calling for [Mr. Fahmy's] full and immediate release and his return to Canada, and this is now the time for the government to make that happen."

Mr. Fahmy faced widely denounced terror charges and spent more than a year in prison before a successful appeal of an earlier conviction resulted in a retrial that culminated in Saturday's verdict. Mr. Fahmy was ultimately sentenced for failing to register with the country's journalist syndicate, possessing unlicensed broadcast equipment and broadcasting "false news" on Al Jazeera.

Canada's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Lynne Yelich, released a statement Saturday saying senior officials were advocating for "the same treatment of Mr. Fahmy as other foreign nationals have received" – an apparent reference to Mr. Greste's deportation to Australia. Asked Sunday about the application for pardon and deportation, a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman would not confirm the formal request, saying in an e-mail that government officials have raised the case with Egyptian authorities at the "highest level" and will continue to provide Mr. Fahmy with consular assistance.

The application marks the second time the Canadian government has applied for Mr. Fahmy's deportation, his brother said, the first having taken place after the journalist gave up his Egyptian citizenship earlier this year in a bid to increase his chances at deportation. Despite being told by Egyptian authorities he would be deported if he relinquished his status in the country, Mr. Fahmy was not sent to Canada. His brother believes the latest application "has a different weight now" because the original verdict was appealed and a verdict in the retrial has been issued.

Mr. Fahmy, Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Greste were sentenced last year to seven to 10 years in prison after a trial largely regarded as a sham. Following that first conviction, Mr. el-Sissi told local media he wished the journalists had been deported after their arrest, rather than put on trial and jailed. The fact that Mr. Fahmy and his colleague were sent back to prison Saturday gave weight to a growing belief among experts that Mr. el-Sissi – seen as a strongman who rules by decree in the absence of a parliament – does not hold control over all state institutions, notably the judiciary.

"The case illustrates, yet again, the fragmentation of power within the Egyptian political dispensation in 2015," said Dr. Hellyer. "There are different power centres at work here."

In Canada on the weekend, the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy released a statement saying the verdict is "part of the ongoing human-rights violations, which range from lack of due process to targeted assassinations." The not-for-profit organization called on Mr. Harper to "utilize all possible means" to free Mr. Fahmy.

With an election on the horizon this fall, the federal opposition parties reiterated their calls for Mr. Harper to speak directly with Mr. el-Sissi, urging the Conservative Leader to take time off the campaign trial and focus squarely on securing Mr. Fahmy's return.

Speaking at an event in Halifax on Sunday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair urged Mr. Harper to "pick up the phone" and call Mr. el-Sissi. In a statement, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused Mr. Harper of "inaction," noting Australia managed to secure Mr. Greste's deportation. "Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke with President el-Sissi on three occasions to secure the release of Australian citizen Peter Greste."

National Defence Minister Jason Kenney told reporters in Ottawa he would not reveal whether Mr. Harper had, in fact, spoken directly with the Egyptian President about the case, saying the release of any such details could prove counterproductive. "It's easy for an opposition leader to stand up with a megaphone, but sometimes a degree of forceful discretion is required in the management of complex consular cases," Mr. Kenney said.

Ferry de Kerckhove, who served as Canada's ambassador to Egypt from 2008 to 2011, said he agrees that quiet diplomacy is preferred – that "low-key intervention is better than big barks."

He also said he was not surprised that Mr. Lulashnyk has sat in on court proceedings; his presence, Mr. de Kerckhove said, speaks volumes. "It does send a very strong signal, in a way, to the importance [Canada attaches] to the trial," he said. "You're making a clear statement that you are there because you expect to take the guy home."

As Mr. Fahmy's family awaits news of whether they will be allowed to do just that, his brother said he wants to deliver clothes and other essential items to his sibling Monday. "We are all trying to hold on – trying our best to stay positive and keep our hope that there are other ways out of this," he said.

With reports from Sean Silcoff in Ottawa and The Canadian Press