Retrial postponement to April 22 “excruciating”

With today’s retrial for Mohamed Fahmy & his colleagues adjourned until April 22, it no longer appears that the judiciary is interested in resolving the case quickly.

In fact, the forming of a new technical committee to review video evidence provided by the prosecution was the only progress made on the case during today’s hearing.

Admitting that the postponement was “excruciating”, Mohamed Fahmy was encouraged to see that the judge did not ask the technical committee to decide whether the videos constituted a security threat.

“It didn’t make sense that a video editor or a studio engineer decides if the videos are against national security,” he said to reporters.

As well, Mohamed and his colleague, Baher Mohammed, spoke to the judge directly about their lost identification, which was confiscated during arrest in 2013. Since they were released on bail in February, they have been unable to access bank accounts and conduct any type of official transaction.

The judge confirmed that police reports could be filed, allowing Mohamed to ask the Canadian embassy to issue a temporary passport. The Canadian ambassador was present in court today, but refused to comment on the case.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Mohamed continued to urge the Canadian government to act.

Our government in Canada needs to continue to engage directly and very aggressively with the government here,” he said to reporters. “[If] we have to go back to prison, I would hope that … I’d be deported back to Canada.”

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Jailed poet al-Ajami focus of Fahmy Foundation campaign

Poet Mohammed al-Ajami  is currently serving a 15-year sentence in Qatar.

Poet Mohammed al-Ajami is currently serving a 15-year sentence in Qatar.

Incarcerated since 2011, jailed Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami is the focus of the latest campaign by the Fahmy Foundation for a Free Press.

Initially sentenced to life in prison for “inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime”, al-Ajami’s sentence was reduced in 2013 to 15 years. He has no options for appeal.

Since his arrest, al-Ajami has been held in solitary confinement and has restricted visits with his family, wife and four young children.

Arrested after video of his poetry performances were posted online, al-Ajami’s cause is supported by Amnesty International and PEN America. Both organizations have issued urgent appeals on his behalf, and called for his immediate and unconditional release.

From al-Ajami’s poem Tunisian Jasmine (about the 2011 Arab Spring):

A warning to the country whose citizens sleep: one moment you have your rights, the next they’re taken from you.

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Learn about al-Ajami’s case:

Support al-Ajami’s case:

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“We have won today”: Prosecution’s case undermined in court

Photo: P. Kingsley / Guardian

Baher Mohamed (left) & Mohamed Fahmy speaking outside Cairo courtroom on March 19. Photo: P. Kingsley / Guardian

In today’s retrial hearing for Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, key witnesses offered contradictory evidence, potentially undermining the prosecution’s case.

Three members of a technical committee responsible for screening video evidence struggled during cross-examination.

During questioning, the head of the technical committee testified that he had not actually seen the video evidence, even though he “signed a report” stating the footage was damaging to Egypt’s national security. Later, the witness admitted he hadn’t even written the report.

The lead security investigator also stumbled during questioning, claiming that he didn’t know how many individuals were arrested and that he couldn’t remember key details of the case.

Postponing the retrial hearing until March 25, the judge ordered a new technical committee review the prosecution’s video evidence.

We have won today,” declared Mohamed Fahmy, standing with colleague Baher Mohammed outside the courtroom. “I consider it a step towards exoneration, and I’m happy about that.”

Here in Canada, we’re cautiously encouraged by the progress in the case.

We’re also happy to hear that the Canadian ambassador to Egypt, Troy Lulashnyk, will be meeting with representatives from Egypt’s Justice Department to try to get Mohamed’s passport returned.

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“We know Jason did nothing wrong”: Fahmy Foundation calls for release of jailed journalist Jason Rezaian

American journalist Jason Rezaian (with & his wife, journalist Yeganah Saleni) has been imprisoned in Iran since July 22, 2014.

Arrested in Iran in July 2014, American journalist Jason Rezaian (pictured with his wife, journalist Yeganah Saleni) continues to be held in solitary confinement without charges or access to a lawyer.

This week, the Fahmy Foundation for a Free Press announced a new campaign for jailed American journalist Jason Rezaian.

Arrested in Iran, Jason has been detained without charges for over seven months.

Both Jason and his wife, journalist Yeganah Saleni, were taken from their home at gunpoint on July 22, 2014.

Held in solitary confinement and denied access to a lawyer, Jason has been refused medical care until recently.

[It’s] been like walking through [a minefield]…not wanting to step on things that explode, and make things worse for Jason,” said Mary Rezaian, Jason’s mother, in an powerful documentary interview in 2014.

Released on bail, Jason’s wife Yeganah and his family continue to fight for Jason’s release.

Jason & Yeganah with writer and broadcaster Anthony Bourdain.

Jason & Yeganah with writer and broadcaster Anthony Bourdain.

It’s like a tug of war,” said Mary Rezaian, after travelling to Iran in 2014 to plead for her son’s release. “We know Jason did nothing wrong.

3 WAYS TO HELP: 

  1. Join 60,000 supporters and sign the petition calling for Jason’s release.
  2. Join the Facebook campaign for Jason & Yeganah (“Yegi”).
  3. Follow the campaign on Twitter and tweet your support!
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Is Canada doing enough to help Mohamed Fahmy?

mohamed-fahmyOn Thursday, March 19, Mohamed Fahmy’s retrial resumes in Cairo.

With the court case dragging on, has the Canadian government done enough to ensure Mohamed’s safe return home?

There is no doubt that Canadians are concerned about this case. With tweets, petition signatures, emails, and phone calls, an overwhelming number of Canadians have expressed their support for Mohamed’s situation.

This support includes:

  • Signatures of 50,000 Canadians on an online petition
  • #HarperCallEgypt tweets trending in Canada
  • Statements of support from Members of Parliament, human rights organizations, journalists, and ordinary citizens
  • Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau standing in support of Mohamed in Question Period
  • 400 Notable Canadians (including Rick Mercer, Michael Ondaatje, and Naomi Klein) signing an open letter asking for action from Prime Minister Harper
  • Nation-wide media coverage

Now, with the continuation of Mohamed’s retrial just days away, we have to wonder if Prime Minister Harper and his government have done enough to ensure Mohamed’s return to Canada. 

HOW TO HELP:

1. Tweet your support!   Use the hashtag #HarperCallEgypt

Sample tweets:

Isn’t it time that @pmharper do something to help Mohamed Fahmy? #HarperCallEgypt NOW  (click here to tweet!)

Mohamed Fahmy has spent over 400 days in prison just for being a journalist. Canada, we need to get him home. #HarperCallEgypt NOW    (click here to tweet!)

Because #journalismisnotacrime – @pmharper needs to #HarperCallEgypt NOW & ask for Mohamed Fahmy’s release immediately #freeAJStaff    (click here to tweet!)

2. Sign the Petition!

Join 50,000 others  (& share the petition widely with your contacts!)

3. Tell Prime Minister Harper to call Egypt! 

EMAIL: stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Sample email (copy & paste)

FAX: 613-941-6900

Sample fax (copy & paste)          

CALL: 613.992.4211 

Leave this message:

“I am a supporter of Mohamed Fahmy. He is a Canadian citizen, and a journalist, and though he has committed no crime, his retrial is continuing on March 19. I urge Prime Minister Harper to contact President el-Sisi immediately and request that Mr. Fahmy’s deportation order be honoured so that he can return safely home to Canada right away.”

(Of course, please remember to remain polite and respectful!)

Remember, every little action you take makes a difference. 

Posted in ACTIVISM

Fahmy Foundation announces second campaign

Photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada (Photo: Fahmy Foundation)

Photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada (Photo: Fahmy Foundation)

This week, Mohamed Fahmy’s Fahmy Foundation for a Free Press announced a second campaign, bringing attention to jailed photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada.

Arrested in 2013, Ziada has been imprisoned for over a year. In a letter written from prison, Ziada describes “the three encounters with the police that ruined my life forever.”

Describing his arrest, an “unjustifiable” beating, and incarceration, Zaida writes: “… the court heard the testimony of the corrupt police officers, and I had nobody to testify in my favour.”

Mohamed Fahmy, waiting for his own retrial to continue on March 19, is using his own experience of being unjustly incarcerated to inspire his advocacy work with the Fahmy Foundation.

“Knowing that I can end up back in prison, I’m living this ‘carpe diem’ sort of approach to life where I seize the day, making use of every single hour while I can because there is a chance that I could be put back in prison,” said Mohamed to The Canadian Press.

I’m just trying to do as much as I can on every level.

Posted in ACTIVISM

Advocating for Shawkan & other imprisoned journalists

Screen shot 2015-03-09 at 8.55.49 PMWhile Mohamed Fahmy waits for his retrial to continue in Cairo next week, he’s continuing to advocate for other journalists imprisoned in Egypt.

With the new Fahmy Foundation for a Free Press, Mohamed is bringing attention to the plight of Mahmoud (Shawkan) Zeid.

This week, Mohamed met with Shawkan’s brother to get updates on Shawkan’s status in prison.

Arrested on August 14, 2013, Shawkan has been incarcerated without charges or trial for over 18 months. A global campaign has been launched to bring attention to his case.

Currently detained in Tora prison, Shawkan gets one family visit per week, and is allowed outside for only one hour per day. As recently as February 9, Shawkan was interrogated in his cell for writing a letter criticizing his detention.

Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal for Shakwan, noting that his family is very concerned for his physical and psychological well-being.

Yesterday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued an open letter to President el-Sisi expressing their concern over press freedom in Egypt, citing the cases of nine journalists currently jailed in Egypt and ten journalists killed since 2011.

And while Mohamed continues to advocate for other imprisoned journalists in Egypt, we are continuing to call for action here in Canada. 

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Posted in ACTIVISM