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Baird looks for allies on imprisoned Canadian journalist Fahmy's case

Al-Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, center, stands in a courtroom during his trial in Cairo on March 31.


Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is reaching out to a number of Middle Eastern countries in an effort to persuade the Egyptian government to release an imprisoned Canadian journalist.

Mr. Baird said on Tuesday that he raised the issue of Mohamed Fahmy's detention with two other foreign ministers in the region, in addition to a conversation he had earlier this week with his counterpart in Egypt. Mr. Fahmy was convicted in June of conspiring with Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood after a trial that was widely condemned internationally.

The Foreign Minister's comments came as Mr. Fahmy's brother, Sherif, called on Canada to do more at what he believes is a crucial moment in his brother's detention. The Egyptian government typically pardons some prisoners at the end of the Muslim holy month, which this year falls in late July, and Sherif Fahmy said he is hopeful his brother's name will be among them.

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He told The Globe and Mail in an interview that he believes Canada wields enough influence in Egypt to make a difference. "I know there are a lot of cards in Canada's hands that, if they use them correctly, they can get Mohamed released," he said.

In June, an Egyptian court convicted Mr. Fahmy and two of his colleagues of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false news. Mr. Fahmy and Australian reporter Peter Greste were each sentenced to seven years in prison while their Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed was given a 10-year sentence.

Mohamed Fahmy moved to Canada with his family about two decades ago and holds dual Canadian and Egyptian citizenship. He was Al Jazeera's English-language bureau chief in Cairo at the time of his arrest. (The media organization is owned by the government of Qatar, which is supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood.)

During his call with Egypt's foreign minister, Mr. Baird said he discussed the scant evidence presented at the journalists' trial and noted that there are a number of options available to the Egyptian government if it wants to release Mr. Fahmy, including expulsion, a pardon or a judicial appeal.

The two ministers had a "a long discussion, directly on this issue," Mr. Baird said. "We as well have discussed the issue with a number of other foreign ministers in the region who I think have a good voice with the new government, and we'll see where it goes."

Mr. Baird did not name the other governments he spoke with. However, Canada has fostered close ties with the United Arab Emirates and recently signed a memorandum of understanding on political consultations during UAE Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan's four-day visit to Canada.

Adel Fahmy, another brother of Mr. Fahmy's, said he trusts that Canada's ambassador to Egypt is doing all he can but hopes that his brother's case won't be forgotten. Wednesday will mark Mr. Fahmy's 200th day in prison.

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Ottawa has faced criticism for being less vocal than some other Western governments in its calls for the release of the journalists. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Baird said again that he believes Ottawa's approach will be more effective. "I think we're likely to get more success with the government in Cairo by working respectfully and directly with them and like-minded allies on this issue," he said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More


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