CAIRO — The family of a Canadian-Egyptian journalist for Al-Jazeera English who is imprisoned in Egypt said Tuesday they have requested his deportation and were told by a senior official the process is in its "final stages."
Three Al-Jazeera English journalists — Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed — have been held for more than a year on terror-related charges. Last week an Egyptian court ordered a retrial, after a Greste and Fahmy had been sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohammed to 10 years last June.
The case has sparked widespread condemnation from international rights groups and other media outlets, who say the journalists have been unjustly jailed for doing their job. Greste's family said they have also applied for deportation.
In their initial trial, prosecutors presented no concrete evidence, only samples of the team's news reports on protests, with no proof of falsification or of an alleged connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. The group was designated a terrorist organization following the military's ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
In November President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi issued a new decree granting him the power to deport foreign defendants convicted or accused of crimes, a move that could allow him to free Fahmy and Greste. However, Mohammed's case remains more uncertain as he holds only Egyptian citizenship.
In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the New York Times, Fahmy said the journalists have been "pawns in a geopolitical game that had nothing to do with our work as impartial professionals."
The case is believed to stem from Egypt's rivalry with Qatar, which funds Doha-based Al-Jazeera, and which was a close ally of Morsi. In recent weeks Egypt and Qatar have moved to thaw relations, raising hopes the three journalists could be freed.
"I would like to remind Mr. Sisi that in the war he is waging against the cancer of political Islam and its violent offspring, journalists are not enemies but allies. We expose the truth about the terrorism he is striving to defeat," Fahmy wrote.