CAIRO — Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who has been imprisoned in Egypt on widely denounced terror charges, has been pardoned by the country’s president.
A lawyer and Egypt’s state-run news agency said President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi pardoned Fahmy today along with prominent human rights activists.
The news agency MENA said el-Sissi has ordered those pardoned be released later in the day.
Fahmy’s lawyer, Khaled Abu Bakr, confirmed the pardon and said his client is a “professional and innocent journalist.”
Fahmy’s family expressed their jubilation at the developments.
“Thank you to all the supporters sending us the news, we have heard and are very happy,” the family said on Twitter.
Fahmy was given a three-year sentence last month after his second trial — an outcome that shocked international observers.
The 41-year-old’s troubles began in December 2013 when he was working as the Cairo bureau chief for Qatar-based satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English.
He and two colleagues were abruptly arrested and charged with a slew of offences, including supporting a banned organization and with fabricating footage to undermine the country’s national security.
The trio maintained their innocence throughout, saying they were just doing their jobs, but after a trial that was internationally decried as a sham, they were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms.
An appeal of their convictions resulted in a second trial, although one of them, Australian Peter Greste, was abruptly deported under a law which allows for the deportation of foreign nationals convicted of crimes.
Fahmy gave up his dual Egyptian citizenship while behind bars in the hopes that he could follow the same path, but that didn’t happen.
He and his other colleague, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, were, however, granted bail during their retrial, which culminated in last month’s surprising verdict.
Following the verdict, Ottawa had formally asked Egypt’s president to pardon Fahmy or allow his deportation to Canada.
The federal government said it was pleased at Wednesday’s developments and that it would continue to help Fahmy with his departure from Egypt.
“Canada is pleased that Egyptian President el-Sisi has granted Mr. Fahmy a pardon,” said a spokeswoman with the department of foreign affairs. “We look forward to Mr. Fahmy reuniting with his family and loved ones, and his return to Canada.”
The court that convicted Fahmy said he and his colleagues were, by default, members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group — considered a terrorist organization by Egypt — because their employer, Al Jazeera, “dedicated its broadcasting to the service and support of the Muslim Brotherhood faction.”
Al Jazeera is owned by Qatar, which has had a tense relationship with Egypt ever since the Egyptian military ousted the country’s former president Mohamed Morsi amid massive protests. Qatar is a strong backer of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Fahmy moved to Canada with his family in 1991, living in Montreal and Vancouver for years before eventually moving abroad for work, which included covering stories for the New York Times and CNN.
Once he leaves Egypt, Fahmy has said he plans to take up a position as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of journalism in Vancouver. He has also been writing a book about his experiences.
— with files from the Associated Press
The Canadian Press