CAIRO: Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said after talks in Cairo on Thursday he hoped that a Canadian journalist working for Qatar-based Al Jazeera television could be released from prison in Egypt.
Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian Baher Mohamed and Australian Peter Greste were sentenced last June to seven to 10 years for spreading lies to help a “terrorist organization” – a reference to Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said in November the issue of a presidential pardon was under discussion. Egypt’s High Court ordered a retrial of the men on Jan. 1.
Baird sounded cautiously optimistic after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shokry.
“I would characterize the meeting as constructive and worthwhile, and we look forward to resolving that issue It’s still not resolved today, but that’s why I came,” he told a news conference.
“This is a complex case (The) minister understands how important this is to me, to all Canadians. I thought today’s meeting was a very constructive step on the road to a successful resolution.”
Rights groups and Western governments have criticized the detentions. Al Jazeera says the trial was flawed and has demanded their release.
Baird seemed hopeful that Fahmy could be released soon.
“We’re working toward a constructive resolution on that sooner rather than later,” he said.
Qatar was one of the main supporters of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi and his Brotherhood during their year in power before his government was ousted by then army chief Sisi in July 2013.
Egypt has accused Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for the now-banned Brotherhood, which the channel denies.
Sisi met a Qatari envoy last month, the latest step in diplomatic efforts led by Saudi Arabia to help patch up ties.
Shokry told Reuters this week a decision by the Doha-based channel to halt broadcasts last month of its Egypt-focused operation Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, whose content angered Cairo, would help improve strained ties with Qatar.