Al Jazeera English journalist released after nearly two years

Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, right, listens to his lawyer Khaled Abou Bakr in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, June 1. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Amr Nabil

iPolitics (CUP)—Nearly two years after his arrest in Egypt on widely denounced terrorism charges, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy walked out of prison a free man following a presidential pardon.

Fahmy and his colleague and co-accused Baher Mohamed were among 100 people—including dozens of prominent human rights activists—pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

“I am free! This time for real! Cops dropped me at CAC my old high school in my prison garb. Party Time! #FreeAJStaff” Fahmy tweeted moments after his release.

His wife, Marwa Omara, said she was visiting Fahmy in prison when she learned the news of his pardon from a TV set that was on.

“I was scared for his health from too much joy,” she said, adding that the first thing they plan to do is have a large wedding party to celebrate their recent marriage.

Fahmy’s lawyer Amal Clooney confirmed the release, saying she was delighted that Fahmy and Mohamed were finally free. “It has been a long ordeal, and we are grateful to President Sissi for exercising his power to pardon the two journalists,” she said in a statement.

She goes on to call this a historic day in Egypt, where the government has finally corrected a long-standing injustice and set two innocent men free.

An emailed statement from the Egyptian president’s office said the pardons were given to people “who have received final prison verdicts in cases related to breaking a protest law or infringing on the police forces’ actions, in addition to a number of health-related and humanitarian cases.”

The pardon came a day before el-Sissi traveled to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

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 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 welcomes today’s developments. Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said in a press release that he’s very pleased.