The retrial of Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist recently released on bail from an Egyptian prison, has once again been delayed, leaving him "baffled" and in legal limbo for at least another two weeks.
Mr. Fahmy was arrested along with fellow Al Jazeera colleagues Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed back in December of 2013 and spent more than 400 days in jail in Egypt on charges of "spreading false news" to help the banned Muslim Brotherhood in a case widely considered a sham.
After finally receiving bail more than a week ago, Mr. Fahmy is now out of his cell but cannot travel or leave Egypt and must check in every day at a local police station. No progress was made in Monday's session and Mr. Fahmy will have to appear in court again on March 8.
"I am baffled that this circus of a retrial continues," Mr. Fahmy said after the session. "Witnesses weren't brought, no evidence was presented, and I'm really demoralized about this resulting in a positive outcome."
Mr. Greste, an Australian correspondent for Al Jazeera, was deported from Egypt by special presidential order on Feb. 1, but despite promises that Mr. Fahmy, too, would be deported, he and Mr. Mohamed are being retried after the original judgment against them was overturned by the country's Supreme Court.
Court proceedings Monday lived up to Egypt's reputation as having a chaotic judicial system. Justice Hassan Farid began proceedings by announcing a last-minute change to the court agenda after the first set of defendants – a group of political activists accused of illegal protesting – were already situated in the dock. That moved Mr. Fahmy's case to the first hearing of the day.
Further mishaps ensued when the court realized that two witnesses being called by the defence, one security officer and one member of Egypt's Amn al-Watani national-security service, had failed to attend.
In addition, Justice Farid not only called forward Mr. Greste, who was deported three weeks ago, as a defendant, but misstated his name as "Peter Guirgis" – an Egyptian Coptic Christian name.
Justice Farid is replacing Justice Nagy Shehata in presiding over the trial. Mr. Shehata has earned considerable notoriety in Egypt for meting out death sentences to hundreds of defendants at a time while wearing sunglasses.
Thus far, Justice Farid has shown himself to prefer court proceedings be concluded as quickly as possible, cutting off defence lawyers early while appearing to show little interest in the specifics of legal arguments.
Mr. Fahmy's defence only had time to request his Canadian passport – lost to him since his arrest – be returned to him before the session quickly adjourned. The judge agreed to provide Mr. Fahmy with a photocopy of the passport.
Mr. Fahmy's defence lawyers did however announce that they plan to call Naguib Sawiris, the billionaire executive chairman of Egypt's Orascom Telecom Media company, as a witness to testify in favour of Mr. Fahmy. They told The Globe and Mail they were not yet in a position to reveal why they would call him.
After the hearing, Mr. Fahmy expressed dismay at the retrial continuing and at the failure of the authorities to expedite the case.
Both Mr. Fahmy and his family have repeatedly called on the Canadian government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in particular to do more to push for his release and deportation. Mr. Fahmy told The Globe he thought an acquittal by the Egypt court to be "impossible" because of the politically sensitive nature of the trial.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office said Mr. Harper had "personally raised the case" with Egypt's President but would not comment on whether the two had spoken by phone. An Egyptian official told The Globe this month that Mr. Harper had written letters on Mr. Fahmy's behalf.
Canada's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said on Monday that Ottawa would continue to call for Mr. Fahmy's "immediate and full release."
"The prospect of Mr. Fahmy continuing to stand retrial is unacceptable, and Canada advocates for the same treatment of Mr. Fahmy as other foreign nationals have received," Lynne Yelich said in an e-mailed statement.
"The Canadian government including myself, the former minister of foreign affairs, and our Prime Minister have been raising the case of Mohamed Fahmy with Egyptian officials at the highest levels for some time, and this government will continue to do so," she said.