TORONTO (AP) — The lawyer for a Canadian Al-Jazeera journalist criticized the Canadian government Thursday for not doing enough to secure his release from Egypt.
Mohamed Fahmy is out on bail awaiting retrial after more than a year behind bars in Egypt on terrorism-related charges.
Fahmy, a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen, was asked to give up his Egyptian nationality in order to qualify for deportation. He complied with the demand but Egyptian authorities are not deporting him for reasons that remain unclear.
Lawyer Amal Clooney said in a statement that appeals from the Canadian public and politicians to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pick up the phone and personally intervene have "so far fallen on deaf ears."
Clooney also said the Canadian government received assurances Fahmy would be released and deported and when that didn't happen, it merely issued a short statement by a junior minister calling for his full release.
"So what did Canada do? It published a short written statement by a junior minister calling the situation 'unacceptable' and asking for Fahmy's 'full and immediate release' and 'consideration of a general amnesty,'" Clooney said.
"Such sheepish whimpers are woefully inadequate when it comes to enforcing an agreement reached with a sovereign state regarding a citizen's release from detention," he added.
Carl Vallee, a Harper spokesman, said the prime minister has personally raised the case with the Egyptian president. But he declined to comment when asked if Harper had actually had a phone conversation with the Egyptian president or has been trying to arrange one.
"We remain deeply concerned about this case and continue to call for his immediate and full release," Vallee said. "Canadian officials have raised the case of Mohamed Fahmy with Egyptian officials at all levels for some time, and we will continue to do so. We are optimistic it will be resolved."
In a telephone interview from Cairo, Fahmy said he doesn't understand why the Canadian government has taken such a "conservative approach"
"My understanding is that he sent a letter," Fahmy said. "This conservative approach to such a high profile case makes you wonder."
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, directly asked Harper in Parliament on Tuesday if he had called the Egyptian President, said Karl Belanger, a spokesman for Mulcair.
"Sadly, Mr. Harper wouldn't answer," Belanger said. "Clearly, the Conservative government is not doing everything it can to help this Canadian citizen."
Fahmy and his Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed begin their retrial this month, after an appeals court threw out their convictions. Fahmy had been sentenced to between two and seven years in prison, while Mohammed had been sentenced to 10 years.
Another journalist, Australian Peter Greste, who was originally sentenced to seven years, was released and deported Feb. 1.
Fahmy said he is preparing for a lengthy legal battle in which his lawyers will question the main investigator in the case, who accused him of being the head of a terror cell. He is also going to seek deportation under the same new law that allowed Greste to be deported and spared a retrial.
Fahmy, 40, has to report to the local police station every day while the trial continues.
He said if he is allowed to return to Canada he wants to move to Vancouver and start a family.