ICLMG, among 300 prominent Canadians, urge PM Harper to take action to bring Mohamed Fahmy home

UPDATE: Mohamed Fahmy and his Al Jazeera colleague Baher Mohamed have been pardoned by the Egyptian president on September 23rd, 2015, and were subsequently released. Mohamed Fahmy is now back in Canada.

September 8, 2015

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

Re: Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy

We write to you today to add our voices to those of Mohamed Fahmy’s family, his legal team and rights organizations around the world. Like them, we implore you to take personal and immediate action to secure Mr. Fahmy’s deportation to Canada.

Mr. Fahmy’s conviction and sentence by the Egyptian court to three years in prison for his work as a journalist has been described as a ”farcical verdict which strikes at the heart of freedom of expression”. The charges against Fahmy and his colleagues were baseless and politicized; the journalists should never have been arrested and tried in the first place.

These sentiments have been echoed by governments around the world including those of the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union as well as by the United Nations and countless human rights and press freedom organizations.

Canada’s Minister of State has expressed “disappointment” with a verdict that “severely undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt”. Indeed, it is beyond dispute that Mr. Fahmy was denied the most rudimentary due process and was convicted on the basis of evidence so flimsy and distorted as to be absurd.

The world knows that Mr. Fahmy is an innocent man trapped in a political nightmare – that he is in prison simply for doing his job. The world also knows that the conditions of Egypt’s notorious Tora prison pose a grave danger to Mr. Fahmy’s safety and health.

Mr. Fahmy’s legal team, together with experts from around the world, are unanimous in the view that direct and persistent requests from you personally to President al-Sisi are Mr. Fahmy’s only hope for release. In the words of Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General Alex Neve, “the Egyptian government needs to hear frequently, firmly and consistently from the Prime Minister himself”.

There is certainly positive precedent to suggest that this is the case. Maher Arar, for example, was freed from a Syrian prison only after the Canadian Prime Minister became directly involved in his cause. Peter Greste, convicted alongside Mr. Fahmy on identical charges in June 2014, was returned home seven months ago after direct and persistent intervention by Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

While we recognize and appreciate Canada’s efforts to date – including consular services on the ground in Cairo and the Minister of State’s repeated expressions of concern – it is clear that new efforts are required.

We urge you, as Canada’s Prime Minister, to communicate directly with President al-Sisi the need to have Mr. Fahmy returned home safely and swiftly. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be Canadian that we defend the rule of law and protect our fellow citizens from harm.

We call on you to make these commitments meaningful in the case of Mr. Fahmy.

Yours sincerely,

The National Council of Canadian Muslims

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

The Honourable Louise Arbour, C.C., G.O.Q.

Paul D. Copeland, C.M.

Marlys Edwardh, C.M.

Atom Egoyan, O.C.

John Fraser, C.M.

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., C.C.

Rick Mercer, O.C.

Alex Neve, O.C.

Michael Ondaatje, O.C.

Stewart Phillip

Sarah Polley, O.C.

John Ralston Saul, C.C., O.Ont.

See the full list of signatories here.