CAIRO: Business tycoon Naguib Sawiris called for the release of Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy in a video posted Tuesday.
“He cannot be dragged into a case related to the Muslim Brotherhood. I say this with conviction and am clearing my conscience because I feel he is aggrieved,” Sawiris said.
“No one disagrees that Al-Jazeera is an inciting channel, but it is difficult to punish everyone just because they wanted to earn a living and build a future,” he added.
Egyptian-Canadian Fahmy is serving a seven-year prison term along with Al-Jazeera’s Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed. They have been jailed since December 2013 for “publishing false news” and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organization by the government.
Qatar, whose royal family owns the channel, and Egypt have been at odds since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Egypt has claimed that the Gulf State used Al-Jazeera as a media and political tool to attack Egypt and spread rumors that Egypt is suffering from a “civil war.”
The three journalists are appealing the verdict, but the Cassation Court has yet to set a date for the appeal.
“With this message I hope whether there could be a pardon from Mr. President or other judicial stages, and that the judiciary takes all factors into consideration,” Sawiris said in his video.
On June 24, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said in a speech at the Military Academy graduation ceremony that he called Minister of Justice Mahfouz Saber and told him, “We will not intervene in the affairs of the judiciary because it is independent. If we earnestly seek a state of institutions, we must respect judicial rulings.”
Sisi’s statement came one day after the journalists were sentenced.
Sawiris made a distinction between Al-Jazeera English, where Fahmy worked, and Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, which he said is “purely inciting” and “baseless.” He said that the former CNN reporter supported the June 30 popular protests that led to the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
“My personal opinion is that there is no way he could be involved in anything illegal, unlike others who incite against the country in Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr.”
The billionaire said that although Al-Jazeera has “lost its credibility,” one of “our countrymen” should not be wronged in this issue.
In May, Fahmy received the Canadian World Press Freedom award. He also donated 15,000 EGP ($2,097) to an account dedicated to support Egypt, as part of an initiative launched by Sisi, reported Aswat Masriya June 25.
He and his fiancée Marwa Emara announced they wish to hold their wedding ceremony in prison, Emara said in a statement published by CBC News Aug. 20.
“We have submitted a request to the Ministry of Interior to allow us to have our wedding in prison alongside our immediate family members,” Emara said in her statement.
According to Emara, the lead investigator revealed in court that his whole investigation was based on Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr channel.