Toronto, February 4, 2014 – Today PEN Canada voiced concern for the Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy who has been referred, to trial, along with 19 of his colleagues, on charges linked to terrorism. News reports indicate that this is the first time journalists in Egypt have been referred to trial on such charges.
On December 29, 2013, Fahmy and his colleagues – Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed – were taken into custody after authorities raided the offices of Al Jazeera English. On January 29, 2014, after being detained for one month, Fahmy was charged with allegedly “assisting a terrorist organization” and “spreading false news that endangers national security.” His colleagues face similar charges for allegedly belonging to or assisting the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It is disturbing that these journalists have been branded as terrorists,” said Philip Slayton, President of PEN Canada. “The fact that the terrorism-related charges were laid over 4 weeks after their detainment reflects a lack of due process and is a perilous omen for freedom of expression in Egypt,” he added.
Fahmy holds both Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, and has received consular services from Canadian representatives in Egypt. However, Fahmy is reportedly being treated as an Egyptian National, being detained separately from the other foreign journalists and being denied medical care.
Update: Fahmy, Greste, and Mohamed pleaded not guilty to their charges at their trial on Feb. 20, 2014, according to an Al Jazeera report. The Egyptian court denied bail and has adjourned their trial to March 5. If found guilty, the journalists could face between five and 15 years in prison.
On Feb. 27, 2014, in a global day of action 100 people gathered in Nathan Philips Square for a vigil for the detained journalists. PEN Canada issued a joint statement with CJFE calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right, at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada.
For further information: Juanita Bawagan, PEN Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-703-8448 ext. 21
Photo credit: Canadian Press file photo