Freed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of looking the other way during the nearly two years he was held captive by the Egyptian government.
“While you here citizens in Canada and around the world clearly understood the urgency of the situation we faced in prison in Egypt, the Harper government did not,” Fahmy said during a press conference in Toronto, which was sponsored by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
“Sitting in that prison cell, it was difficult not to feel betrayed and abandoned by Prime Minister Harper,” he said.
Fahmy has only been back in Canada since Sunday, after he was pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Fahmy and fellow Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were imprisoned in Cairo in December 2013 under accusations of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, among other charges stemming from their coverage of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.
“There are no words to describe how it feels when you are wrongfully convicted and sitting in a cold cell, infested with insects (and) nurturing a broken shoulder,” Fahmy continued. “But when you’re there, your only hope is that your prime minister would do everything in his power to get you out of there.”
Instead, Fahmy said Harper “delegated his responsibility” to lower-level members of his government “who lacked the clout to really get me out of there.”
Fahmy also took the opportunity to thank New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair, who joined him during the press conference, for “directly questioning Mr. Harper in Parliament about the mild stance toward my case.” Fahmy said that, because he is a journalist, he is not allowed endorse anyone for the upcoming Canadian elections, but added that he is “very clear” in his gratitude to Muclair and the NDP for their support.
On Monday, Fahmy also had a meeting with Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, after which he tweeted a picture of them sharing a beer and wrote: “Enjoyed meeting @JustinTrudeau to thank him in person, discuss freedom of the press & protection of Canadians abroad.”
Fahmy, whose plans include a professorship at the University of British Columbia’s journalism school in Vancouver, said he’ll continue to fight for the freedom of the press and the rights of other imprisoned journalists through the foundation he launched while detained. The group is currently working on behalf of seven reporters and photographers who are unjustly imprisoned, some of which have been held for over four years.
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