Cairo Criminal Court held a short trial session for former Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed at the Police Institute in Tora Prison. The court decided to hold the next hearing on 19 March.
Sunday’s session was supposed to include eyewitness testimonies by National Security officers, but they failed to attend the hearing. Their absence is the reason for the continuous postponement of the case. The judge ordered an EGP 500 fine for two of the officers, whose presence is essential to the case.
On the other hand, Fahmy’s defence lawyer Khaled Abou Bakr requested his defendant’s passport once again. However, the judge said the matter was in the hands of the Canadian Embassy.
Although present during the session, Canadian Ambassador to Egypt Troy Lulashnyk did not comment or speak to the press.
“We do not understand where the problem is,” Marwa Omara, Fahmy’s fiancée, said following the court session, noting her concerns about the obstacles she and her fiancé are facing in getting married without Fahmy’s ID.
According to the judge, the embassy must address the court. It is likely that the embassy cannot issue Fahmy a new passport since the original document is in the possession of Egyptian authorities.
The situation is the same for Mohamed, who showed reporters a black and white copy of his national ID card. “It takes me a long time and hassle when I pass through checkpoints on the streets. It’s hard to explain to the officers why I have no identification papers, or how to prove to them that I am officially released pending trial,” Mohamed said.
The third journalist in the case, Peter Greste, was sent home to Australia as per a law allowing foreign defendants to return to their homelands. Fahmy and Mohamed expressed that they are exhausted from the long trial and restricted freedoms. Fahmy referred to it as “some sort of legal limbo”.
“However, I don’t want to get out of this by a pardon, I want my name cleared,” Mohamed said. In the meantime, the experience pushed Fahmy to launch a foundation to support journalists in trouble, “and we have taken the case of Ahmed Shawkan as a start,” Fahmy said outside the court.
“I received a lot of material and psychological support in my case. It’s time to return the favour,” he added, explaining that for the time being, the funds will be raised through donations, to provide financial assistance for journalists facing trial.