Egyptian authorities decided to give back Egyptian citizenship to Mohamed Fahmy, a journalist who was sentenced along with several other journalist in the Al-Jazeera case in 2015.
Fahmy announced the news Thursday after reading an article in local media. “I am so excited, I can’t sleep. It’s 3am. I am trying to reach officials to get a confirmation. I learned [the news] from Twitter, from an article on Al-Masry Al-Youm,” Fahmy told Daily News Egypt.
According to Al-Wakaea Al-Misreya state newspaper, Fahmy’s name was featured among 13 others in a list issued by the Interior Ministry that selected those who would receive back their Egyptian citizenship.
Fahmy had dual Egyptian-Canadian citizenship, but was pressured to renounce his Egyptian nationality in order to be eligible for deportation as a foreigner. Australian Peter Greste, a co-defendant in the Al-Jazeera case, was released and deported in February 2015, according to an Egyptian law which allows “foreign” prisoners to be deported to their countries.
The Al-Jazeera journalists who were put on trial had initially received sentences between seven and ten years, after which they obtained a re-trial which concluded in August 2015. The final trial handed down even stricter sentences, sparking further outrage.
“My Lawyer Mohamed Hamouda submitted a request [to acquire back Egyptian citizenship] to the Minister of Interior on 28 December 2015,” Fahmy told Daily News Egypt Thursday, assuring that he was keen on obtaining his nationality back.
“It was a matter of principle. It was [also] quite disturbing to request [an entry] visa [to Egypt] and I want to be able to return back anytime, see my family, and be able to report again one day in the future, and live normally,” Fahmy said.
The Al-Jazeera case started in December 2013, when the police stormed the Marriott Hotel in Zamalek, arresting Greste and Fahmy from the room they were working in. Mohamed was arrested shortly after from his house.
The journalists were charged with spreading false news and supporting Egypt’s now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. They spent over 400 days in jail. When released, Fahmy sued the Al-Jazeera network on accusations of “manipulative implication” of journalists.
In May 2015, Egyptian American activist Mohamed Soltan, son of Muslim Brotherhood figure Salah Soltan, was released and later deported to the US, putting end to a life imprisonment sentence.
Soltan had to surrender his Egyptian nationality, as per the same deportation law used by Greste and Fahmy.