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Fresh trial set for Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt

Announcement comes despite deportation hopes for Mohamed Fahmy, amidst criticism from Baher Mohamed's family of discrimination
Al-Jazeera's Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy listens to the verdict inside the defendants cage (AFP)

Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, two Al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt, will face a new trial on Thursday, after hopes had previously been raised that Fahmy could be deported to Canada where he holds citizenship.

Coming on the heels of the release and deportation of colleague Peter Greste to Australia last week, Fahmy had been set to be deported to Canada in exchange for surrendering his Egyptian citizenship. However, the announcement of a resumption of legal proceedings has put a block on those hopes.

On Sunday, Baher Mohamed's family expressed optimism at the decision as it speeds up proceedings for the journalist who solely hold Egyptian citizenship and for whom deportation was never an option.

"This is a disgrace that Egypt has never seen in its long history and i feel deeply sorry and ashamed," Mohamed's father, Hazem Mohamed, told Middle East Eye last week.

Fahmy’s family, however, slammed the latest decision on Sunday, describing it as their “worst nightmare".

“Mohamed never requested that he drops his citizenship,” they said. “The authorities visited him before the appeal hearing on January 1st and made a deal with him to renounce it in return for his freedom, claiming this was the only way out for him and Peter.

“Now, the general prosecutor is complicating matters even though both the presidency and the prime minister have expressed their desire to let him go as soon as possible. Yes, we are worried and we have been let down by the Canadian government’s conservative approach in the handling of the case.”

Lynne Yelich, the Canadian minister of state for consular affairs, expressed her disquiet over the decision.

“Canada is deeply concerned with the announcement that a retrial date has been set despite assurances that Mr Fahmy would be released along with his colleague, Peter Greste,” she said in a statement. “Canada calls for the immediate release of Mr Fahmy.”

Prominent lawyer Amal Clooney has requested a meeting with Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to push for the release of Fahmy, according to a letter obtained by AFP and released over the weekend.

"Since Mr Greste’s release, Mr Fahmy's Egyptian counsel has been informed by Egyptian government officials that his release was to follow, and that it was imminent," Clooney wrote in the letter addressed to Sisi and his foreign minister.

"This was to be expected, given that Mr Fahmy has been the victim of the same injustice as Mr Greste.”

Baher Mohamed's wife said it was "a good thing" a decision would be made on Thursday. 

“I thought it would be later – like after three months, and I was so angry about it," she said. "I hope to see the release of Baher on that day, just as Peter was released.”

However, she said she was still angry about the treatment of her husband compared to his colleagues.

“I’m furious of course, it’s such a painful thing this discrimination between the foreigners and the Egyptians,” Jihan said. “The manipulation of the law shows that Baher is innocent – Peter wasn’t actually deported, he just went to be with his mother and father in Australia and doesn’t face a trial.”