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Letter from PEN to the Prime Minister of Canada urging intervention on behalf of imprisoned journalist Mohamed Fahmy

Tuesday 10 February 2015 - 8:25pm

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, PC, MP
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A2

February 10, 2015

Dear Prime Minister,

PEN International, PEN Canada, and the Centre québécois du P.E.N. international today join thousands of Canadians in urging your personal, immediate and direct intervention, with His Excellency Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, concerning the detention and trial of Canadian citizen Mohammed Fahmy.

PEN International is the worldwide association of writers’ which defends freedom of expression and promotes literature. PEN´s 30, 000 members are organized in 150 Centres in over 110 countries around the world, including two centres in Canada and one in Egypt. Our membership ranges from journalists to Nobel laureates.

We are well aware of the interventions to date in Mr. Fahmy’s case by former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable John Baird. These interventions were welcome and, it appeared as recently as one week ago, successful, when Mr. Baird announced that Mr. Fahmy’s release was “imminent.” The announcement of a new trial for Mr. Fahmy is a devastating blow, and we urge your compassionate and immediate attention to this matter.

Mohamed Fahmy (with dual Canadian and Egyptian citizenship at the time of his arrest), Australian Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were arrested on December 29, 2013. They were sentenced to seven, seven and ten years respectively after conviction of “having links to a terrorist organisation” and “spreading false news.” We have found nothing to justify these charges. Their arrest and subsequent conviction were widely condemned throughout the world as contrary to Egypt’s obligations to protect freedom of expression and not to detain individuals arbitrarily.

On February 1, 2015, Peter Greste, was deported to Australia after 400 days in prison. In the days immediately afterwards, Mr. Fahmy renounced his Egyptian citizenship (reportedly in accordance with an agreement made with Egyptian authorities); Egyptian authorities subsequently formally announced this revocation of citizenship, as required under Egyptian law. It seemed that Mr. Fahmy would be allowed to leave Egypt.

But in the past week, Mr. Fahmy’s situation has changed for the worse. Despite Canadian interventions, and despite all the necessary steps being taken to revoke Mr. Fahmy’s Egyptian citizenship, a new trial was ordered on February 8th to begin on Thursday, February 12th.

PEN feels very strongly that this case now requires your immediate and personal attention.

We would be very happy to discuss this case further with you.

Yours sincerely,

Émile Martel
Centre québécois du P.E.N. international

Philip Slayton
PEN Canada

John Ralston Saul
International President
PEN International

Marian Botsford Fraser
Writers in Prison Committee
PEN International