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Jailed journalist Mohamed Fahmy seeks to marry in Egyptian prison

Marwa Omara, right, says she didn’t want to wait until her fiancé’s release and had urged him to request that the wedding be allowed to take place while he is behind bars.

Jailed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy has applied for permission to marry his fiancée in an Egyptian prison and told her he hopes two former colleagues who are also imprisoned can serve as his best men.

The 40-year-old Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera's English-language TV network was convicted earlier this year, along with two of his colleagues, of conspiring with Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood to spread false news. Mr. Fahmy and Australian reporter Peter Greste each received seven-year sentences, while Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years following a trial that was widely criticized as a farce.

Mr. Fahmy, who has dual Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, had planned to marry his fiancée, Marwa Omara, in April of 2014 but was forced to postpone the wedding after his arrest last December. Ms. Omara said she didn't want to wait until her fiancé's release and had urged him to request that the wedding be allowed to take place while he is behind bars.

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"Our marriage is a message to the world that Mohamed is innocent, and also it's a personal message to him that I love him and I care about him," Ms. Omara told The Globe and Mail in an interview. "I want to do everything that I can to support him and help him."

She said Mr. Fahmy was initially reluctant to get married in prison because he thought it would be unfair to her. "But I told him, no, I want to do this," she said. "This is our plan, and we have to do it. I believe that prison bars are not going to stop our plans. Even if he's going to spend the seven years [in prison], for me, I know his innocence and I'm willing to wait."

The Muslim Brotherhood was ousted by the Egyptian military in July, 2013, and was designated a terrorist organization later that year. Mr. Fahmy and his two Al Jazeera colleagues were arrested on Dec. 29. after a raid on their studio.

The three men and their supporters insist they were simply doing their jobs as journalists. Mr. Fahmy's lawyers filed an appeal of his guilty verdict and sentence last month, which could lead to a hearing and a eventually a retrial if it is successful, his brother has said.

Ms. Omara said she met Mr. Fahmy at a Christmas party in 2011, where he was signing copies of his new book for friends, and they had their first date that New Year's Eve. Over the next two years, she said she grew accustomed to dating a journalist who was frequently running off to cover protests and break stories, and came to appreciate the importance of his work.

One benefit of holding the wedding while Mr. Fahmy is jailed is that it should make it easier for Ms. Omara to visit Mr. Fahmy more often. Currently, she is permitted to see him twice a month, for 45 minutes at a time, but the frequency of visits should double if the two are married, she said.

She said she expects the ceremony would be a simple affair and is hoping that a small group of immediate family members and Mr. Fahmy's two jailed colleagues will be allowed to participate. Mr. Fahmy has already discussed the idea of having Mr. Greste and Mr. Mohamed serve as his best men, she said.

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Ms. Omara said the separation has been difficult for her. "I'm lonely, and I want to talk to him. I want to be with him, and I can't. I want to tell him that I miss him and I love him, and I can't. It's very hard," she said. "It's a very hard experience, especially since he did nothing."

Mr. Fahmy's family had hoped that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi might use his powers to release the Al Jazeera journalists when he issued a list of presidential pardons to mark the end of Ramadan in late July, but were disappointed to find that their names were not included on the list.

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