Canadian journalist and former bureau chief for Al Jazeera English in Cairo, Mohamed Fahmy, filed a lawsuit against the Qatari-based channel for “negligence,” seeking $100 million Canadian in compensation.
Fahmy and two of his colleagues, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, were imprisoned in what has become known as the “Marriott Cell case” on charges of aiding a terrorist organization and airing false news.
Fahmy and Greste were initially sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed received a sentence of 10 years. The Court of Cassation granted the journalists a retrial in January 2015. Fahmy was detained for over 400 days before he was finally released.
The imprisonment of the Al Jazeera journalists sparked international outrage at what was widely considered to be a violation of press freedoms.
Fahmy and Mohamed were released on bail in February 2015, following the first session of the retrial, which was delayed multiple times. Greste was deported after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree declaring that foreigners detained pending investigation could be sent home.
Fahmy, who is Egyptian-Canadian, renounced his Egyptian citizenship in order to qualify for deportation, but was only granted a temporary Canadian passport at the end of April. He is still in Egypt.
The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported that Fahmy’s lawyer, Joanna Glialason, said he had already filed the case against Al Jazeera on May 5 at the Canadian British Columbia Court.
Fahmy stated to the Associated Press when he was first released in February, “Al-Jazeera’s epic negligence made our (his, Greste’s and Mohamed’s) situation harder, and gave our captors more firepower.”
He added, “It is an infringement on freedom of speech to silence three innocent, recognized journalists. Yet, a very important aspect of this case is Qatar abusing its Al Jazeera Arabic platform in waging a media war against Egypt.”
Later in the AP interview, Fahmy blamed Al Jazeera for not providing enough security for the journalists working for its English section, and failing to make clear to the Egyptian authorities that Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic were providing very different types of coverage.
During the press conference, where Fahmy and his legal team announced they would be suing Al Jazeera, Fahmy said, “They seemed like a professional company, and they were a professional channel, but they became a political arm for Qatar.”
He said he only discovered while in prison that many of Al Jazeera’s employees were either from the Muslim Brotherhood, or affiliated with the Brotherhood, and that he only found out “in the cage” that Al Jazeera did not have an operating license in Egypt. Fahmy had only worked for Al Jazeera for three months before his arrest.
He accused the channel of not standing by him, Greste and Mohamed during the legal proceedings against them.
Al Jazeera has been repeatedly accused in Egypt of airing pro-Muslim Brotherhood material and echoing the Qatari regime’s support for the rise of political Islam across the Arab region after the 2011 uprisings.
In December 2014, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr pulled its Egypt channels off air in order to preserve its independence, according to Al Jazeera officials.