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Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday, January 18, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

When John Baird stepped down as foreign affairs minister last week, it looked like Mohamed Fahmy's Egyptian ordeal was finally over. After more than 14 months behind bars for the crime of being a journalist in post-revolutionary Egypt, Mr. Fahmy was about to come home.

What a difference a week makes. Mr. Fahmy's situation now looks more dire than ever, and the direct intervention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be his last hope for avoiding many more years in an Egyptian prison.

On January 1, his conviction was stayed by an appeals court, and a new trial ordered. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi issued a decree enabling the deportation of a foreigner on trial, a measure tailor-made for this case. On February 1, Mr. Fahmy's Al Jazeera colleague, Australian Peter Greste, was deported to freedom; he and Mr. Fahmy had been arrested together. A few days later, Mr. Fahmy, a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen, renounced his Egyptian citizenship, expecting to be similarly deported.

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And so it was that last week, Mr. Fahmy's departure seemed to be hours away. Canada's quiet diplomacy had apparently paid off.

A week later, Egyptian prosecutors now say they intend to begin retrying the accused on Thursday. President el-Sissi has not intervened. The wheels of Egypt's chaotic justice system are grinding, and they are about to crush Mr. Fahmy.

There are those who say Ottawa has spent months doing little to win Mr. Fahmy's release. That's not true. The Harper government, led by Mr. Baird and the diplomats of Foreign Affairs, has been working on the case diligently. But despite their efforts, Mr. Fahmy is still not free.

That's why the Prime Minister should get involved. Mr. Harper should phone Mr. el-Sissi directly, and remind him of how seriously Canada takes this case, and how Egypt's actions are destroying its already tarnished reputation in the Western world.

Mr. el-Sissi might even be thankful for such a call. The Fahmy case is the product of an unstable regime, and is likely driven by prosecutors and Interior Ministry officials. A direct appeal from Mr. Harper may light a fire under the Egyptian President, and give him leverage against other arms of his own government. It's the wrongly imprisoned Canadian's best shot at freedom.

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