The internationally renowned human rights lawyer who represents Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy in his bid to stay out of an Egyptian prison is preparing to travel to Cairo to lobby for his freedom.
Amal Clooney said in a statement released on Thursday that she is waiting for her visa to be processed so she can visit Egypt, meet with Mr. Fahmy – the former Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera's English network – and discuss his case with Egyptian and Canadian officials.
Ms. Clooney decided to fly to Egypt because of frustration with the Canadian government and its inability to persuade the Egyptians Mr. Fahmy should be deported to Canada.
"I hope that such a visit can lead to a swift and complete resolution of this case," she said in her statement.
Mr. Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed are on bail awaiting the next court hearing in a retrial on charges of "spreading false news" to help the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Their conviction for those crimes last year was overturned on appeal in early January.
Mr. Fahmy's Al Jazeera colleague, Australian reporter Peter Greste, was released and sent back to his home country under the terms of a recent decree allowing Egypt's President to deport foreigners who have been convicted or accused of a crime in Egypt. Mr. Fahmy, who was a dual citizen of Canada and Egypt, renounced his Egyptian citizenship to qualify for the same sort of expulsion.
"The Canadian government received assurances from the Egyptian government that a decision had been taken to release him and that his departure from the country was imminent," Ms. Clooney said. Canadian officials have said Egypt's Foreign Ministry, Justice Ministry and Interior Ministry told them Mr. Fahmy would be let go, she said.
When that did not transpire, Consular Affairs Minister Lynne Yelich issued a statement saying the situation was unacceptable and called for Mr. Fahmy's immediate release.
"Such sheepish whimpers are woefully inadequate when it comes to enforcing an agreement reached with a sovereign state regarding a citizen's release from detention," Ms. Clooney said.
"Yet calls from Canadian society and politicians for Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper to pick up the phone to personally intervene in the case have so far fallen on deaf ears."
An Egyptian official told The Globe and Mail this week that Mr. Harper's office has requested a phone call between the Prime Minister and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi regarding Mr. Fahmy.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, could not say whether a call was scheduled. Mr. Harper also sent a letter to the Egyptian President last Thursday that called for Mr. Fahmy's release, the official said.
Ms. Clooney pointed out that Egypt's highest appeal court has said there was insufficient evidence to sustain the charges against the Al Jazeera journalists, whose case has become the focus of an international campaign for press freedom.
Mr. Fahmy has criticized Al Jazeera since his release two weeks ago, accusing his employer of negligence and making his situation more difficult.
Ms. Clooney said she hoped Al Jazeera will refrain from taking any action that might undermine her client's bid for freedom.