A Cairo court postponed the verdict in the retrial of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy on Thursday, giving no explanation for the delay and providing no clear information as to when a final verdict would be delivered.
The postponement has diminished hopes for a speedy resolution of the more than 18 month ordeal and raised fears that a harsh verdict could be imminent.
"I see the postponement as another insult to us, to our families, to our lawyers, because no one informed us officially," said Mr. Fahmy in the sweltering summer heat outside Cairo's Tora prison complex where the trial was set to take place. "We are here, we are expecting a sentence, and no explanation why it has been adjourned or postponed."
Last year, Mr. Fahmy, an award-winning journalist who previously worked for CNN, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times was sentenced to seven years in jail alongside Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed on terror-related charges in a trial widely denounced as a farce.
After spending more than one year in jail, an appeals court threw out the conviction and ordered a retrial on the grounds that there was a lack of evidence in the first trial. Mr. Greste was deported in January, and in February Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Mohamed were released on bail.
Mr. Fahmy told reporters outside the entrance to Cairo's Tora prison, that he had been told to leave the area in front of court and given no explanation for the postponement of the trial. Mr. Fahmy, his co-defendant Mr. Mohamed and his lawyers were left to speculate the reason for the delay.
"This worries me. Is this going to be a harsh sentence? Will this be bad publicity as we approach the August 6th Suez Canal opening?" said Mr. Fahmy. A new Suez Canal is set to open August 6th which the Egyptian government has hailed an economic success and deemed "Egypt's Gift to the World."
Others speculated that the trial had been postponed because the judge, Hassan Farid had fallen ill. Mr. Farid's son told Agence France Presse by phone that his father had postponed the session due to sickness.
"It's shocking ... when you are on this side of the world, you realize how lucky we are in Canada that there is ... organization, respect of your rights, laws and rules," said Mr. Fahmy. "It makes a big difference in people's lives and today is the best example."
Canada's minister of state for consular affairs said the government was calling on Egypt to use "all the tools at its disposal" to resolve Fahmy's case.
"We are deeply concerned over Mr. Fahmy's current situation and disappointed by the continued delay in his trial," Lynne Yelich said in a statement. "We ask that all branches of the Egyptian government work together in a concerted manner to address the situation of Mr. Fahmy."
Adel Fahmy, Mr. Fahmy's brother who had flown in from Kuwait for the verdict, said court officials informed him the verdict had been postponed until August 8th and the Dutch ambassador in Cairo who was planning to attend the trial also wrote on his Twitter account that the trial had been postponed until August 8th.
But later on Thursday, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported the trial had been postponed until Aug. 2, four days before the new canal's official opening and the same day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to arrive in Cairo for U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue.
Judicial sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because regulation does not allow members of the judiciary to speak to media, told the AP that the verdict had been postponed because the judge was ill. The sources add that the date would likely be delayed again because his illness was serious, further throwing the journalists' fate into uncertainty.
Officials from Egypt's Ministry of Justice could not be immediately reached.
Outside the prison, Mr. Fahmy also announced that he had officially married Marwa Omara after months of bureaucratic struggles to obtain official paperwork needed to legally marry. Mr. Fahmy has called Mrs. Omara his "star" for helping to lead the campaign for his release and her steadfast support throughout his trials.
"I'm relieved, at least I will have one more week with Mohamed," said Mrs. Omara in response to the postponement of the verdict. "But it will be the same thing all over again next week."
Files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press were used in this report