CAIRO (AP) — The wife of an Egyptian journalist for Al-Jazeera imprisoned in Cairo pleaded on Thursday for a foreign passport for her husband, reflecting concerns that his Egyptian nationality was an impediment to his freedom.
The plea came after Al-Jazeera's Peter Greste was released on Sunday after spending 400 days behind bars with two of his colleagues and returned to Australia.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said this week that another member of the trio, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, could be imminently released after renouncing his Egyptian nationality.
But Baher Mohammed remains behind bars and his wife, Jehan Rashed, said she is looking — out of desperation — for any country that could provide him with a foreign nationality.
She also told The Associated Press that she is collecting a million-signature petition and plans to stage sit-ins to press his case.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has the power to deport foreigners convicted or accused of crimes.
"I wish that someone can give me another nationality" for Mohammed, she said "Freedom is more precious than nationality."
Rashed's desperation is shared by many in Egypt where some thousands are jailed on charges ranging from joining demonstrations — a criminal act, according to a new law — to taking part in violence or belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood group.
Four years after the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's courts are overwhelmed with trials of thousands of protesters and government opponents, including Islamist supporters and secular activists. Judges have approved harsh and wide-ranging sentences against government critics while overturning earlier verdicts against Mubarak, his sons and senior security officials over the killing of protesters and corruption.
Greste was the only one to leave Egypt while still on a retrial.
In comments published Thursday in al-Masry al-Youm, writer Hossam el-Sukkari said Mohammed is unlucky "for not having a citizenship of a developed country."