Three Al Jazeera journalists detained in Egypt issued a message that included a plea for help and Christmas greetings, as the one year anniversary of their arrest approaches.
Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, and Australian Peter Greste were arrested in Cairo last December. They were sentenced in June to between seven and ten years in jail on charges of aiding a terrorist group, tarnishing Egypt’s image abroad, and threatening national security.
Fahmy delivered his statements from Tora prison in Cairo to the Canadian state broadcasting agency CBC, pleading for Candian government intervention to release him and his colleagues.
He argued that he deserves help fron the government, saying: “I’ve paid my taxes, I have a proven track record of 15 years of journalism and I’ve acted with complete decency throughout the whole trial.”
On 29 December, 2013, the journalists who were working for the Qatari news network were detained by the Egyptian authorities at a Cairo hotel.
“My dialogue with the media has never outright attacked or critiqued the Canadian government’s stance. But now I’m a desperate Canadian citizen that needs the government to stand by me as much as they can,” CBC’s report, published Monday, quoted Fahmy as saying.
He pleaded for immediate help as he and his colleagues are less than two weeks away from thier appeal court session on 1 January.
He said: “That phone call I desperately need from the Canadian government I need now.”
In a letter from Greste published Saturday on the “freepetergreste.org” website, he sent Christmas greetings as he and his colleagues approach the anniversary of their arrest.
Greste said: “As we approach the end of our first year in prison, I cannot help but feel proud and strengthened by all that has been achieved so far. We haven’t won this fight yet – we are still behind bars after all – but we have made our cause abundantly and unequivocally clear.”
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi commented on the journalists’ case following the jailing sentence, saying he was considering pardoning Al Jazeera journalists jailed in his country for nearly a year, Reuters reported.
He also said in an interview with France 24, when asked about the possibility of a pardoning decision to be made soon: “If we find this appropriate for the national security of Egypt, we will do it.”
The governments of Egypt and Qatar were at loggerheads for over a year following the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Cairo accused Doha of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and sowing instability within the county. Egypt and Qatar only recently reconciled, after a Saudi brokered negotiation.
Al Jazeera announced Monday it is closing its Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr channel, a live streaming channel focused on Egypt that formally aired from Cairo. This was before an Egyptian governmental crackdown after former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. There is, reportedly, a plan for a general Mubasher channel to replace it.
In its statement, Al Jazeera confirmed that airing from Egypt will stop untill obtaining required permissions from Egyptian Authorities. Closing Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr came only two days after Al-Sisi met with the Qatari Emir’s special envoy in Cairo to confirm a Saudi-brokered reconciliation.