Pick up the Phone, Steve! Demand Justice for Mohamed Fahmy! (Editorial)

by Larry Powell

The sentencing in August of the Canadian journalist, Mohamed Fahmy to three more years in an Egyptian jail, is, sadly, yet another painful reminder of just how little the Harper Government seems to care about one of its most sacred trusts - protecting Canadian citizens who get into trouble abroad. 
About a year-and-a-half ago, Fahmy was doing his job with Al Jazeera, reporting on the revolution in Egypt. The military rulers arrested and charged him with telling lies and being an ally of a “terrorist organization.” That organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, had been duly-elected, then overthrown by those same rulers. 

Fahmy’s latest sentence, and that of other fellow journalists, follows what Amnesty International and others have called a litany of miscarriages of justice, using “evidence” bearing no connection to the allegations.

Initially, the task of “helping” Fahmy had fallen to Canada’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird. (Allegations have now emerged that Baird did nothing at all for six months after the journalist’s arrest, until public protests began to mount.) Then, instead of sticking with the Fahmy file and giving it the attention it deserved, Baird suddenly quit politics early this year. 

So where is Baird now? Well, he first headed to a cushy job on the board of Barrack Gold, a giant gold-mining company with a shady record on the environment and workers’ rights. Now, apparently, he is an adviser to a Hong Kong billionaire. 

With this kind of dedication to public service, what hope is there for the Fahmys of the world? 

According to a Canadian organization which speaks for journalists, Fahmy was going to have to spend his first week or more in solitary confinement, in a cold, cockroach-infested cell. 

Meanwhile, Amnesty reports the government of Egypt is, as we speak, “funneling an entire generation of young activists, journalists, and even bystanders from the streets into prisons: More than a year after it came to power, the government crackdown has seen more than 41,000 people arrested, charged or indicted with a criminal offence, or sentenced after unfair trials.”

One would think the regressive tactics of Egypt’s current rulers would not sit well with Harper and Company. After all, they are all about promoting “democracy” wherever they go, are they not? Yet, this is how a Government of Canada website describes Canada-Egypt relations, right now!

“…a mutually respectful and beneficial partnership, founded on a common interest in peace, stability and security in the Middle East….Canada prioritises its engagement with Egypt on a wide range of global issues, including the development of democratic governance, pluralism and human rights…"

Could it be that Mr. Harper views Egypt, not so much as a hotbed of repression, but as a tool to further his messianic support for the State of Israel? Canada defines Egypt, after all, as "an important actor in efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict," probably because of its peace treaty with Israel.

Mr. Harper could prove myself and others wrong. All he has to do is pick up the phone, call the President of Egypt and demand justice for Mr. Fahmy. At least make the effort, Sir. 

Doing otherwise should not be an option for a (once?) proud western democracy such as Canada.


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