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Detained Canadian’s family disputes Egypt’s claims of airing ‘false news’

Mohamed Fahmy is shown in a family handout photo.


The parents of an imprisoned Egyptian-Canadian journalist arrived in Cairo Thursday as local prosecutors interrogated their son on suspicions of broadcasting false news that harmed national security.

Mohamed Fahmy's family insisted there was no truth to the allegations against the 40-year-old, who is spending his third week languishing in a cold, dark, insect-ridden cell at an infamous prison which houses some of Egypt's most notorious criminals.

"The accusation about him fabricating news … I'm pretty sure that this accusation is not about Mohamed," Fahmy's younger brother, Sherif, told The Canadian Press in an interview from Kuwait.

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Fahmy, along with Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, were working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English when they were arrested Dec. 29.

Authorities apprehended them in a Cairo hotel room where they had been working after the Egyptian government raided the offices of the Qatar-based satellite news broadcaster.

None have been officially charged but Egypt's Interior Ministry had said the arrests were part of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which the military-led government branded a terrorist organization after overthrowing former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in a coup in July.

In a new development Thursday, Egypt's chief prosecutor's office said in a statement that some of the detained journalists confessed to being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, without specifying who.

Fahmy's brother said reports he had seen about the statement were confusing as Fahmy's lawyer, who was present at Thursday's interrogation, told him allegations of ties to the Brotherhood hadn't come up.

"None of his hearings have anything to do with this at all," Fahmy's brother said. "This is not related to Mohamed."

Al Jazeera also rejected the Egyptian prosecutor's claim against its three detained journalists, saying the statement was "unusual."

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"It looks like a prejudgement on an ongoing investigation," a spokesman for the network said. "Claims that anyone has 'confessed' are rejected by our journalists and legal team."

Fahmy's next interrogation is set for next week, his brother said.

The family is now hoping Fahmy's parents, who flew to Cairo from Montreal, will be allowed to see their son.

"We're pushing hard for them to be able to see Mohamed within the next couple of days – he requested that, so we're hoping it will happen soon," Fahmy's brother said, adding that an older sibling, Adil, was also travelling to Cairo on Friday.

There are also hopes that a letter sent days ago by Canadian officials asking Fahmy to receive attention at a hospital for an injured shoulder will be heeded by Egyptian authorities, his brother said.

Fahmy's family moved to Canada in 1991. He and his three brothers all went to university in Canada before eventually moving abroad for work.

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As a journalist, Fahmy covered stories for the New York Times and CNN among other news outlets before moving to Egypt in 2011 and eventually becoming Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Cairo.

As the journalist's detention in Cairo appears set to continue, Fahmy's family is hoping Canada will be able to secure his release with diplomatic pressure similar to what was seen when two other Canadians – John Greyson and Tarek Loubani – were detained in Egypt last year.

"All our hopes is that the Canadians will intervene," said Fahmy's brother, who has voiced concerns that Ottawa isn't doing enough on the case. "We're hoping that this is going to lead to his release."

A government official speaking on the condition they not be named said Canadian officials had been in regular contact with Fahmy's lawyer and Fahmy's other brother, Adil.

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