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Canadian plea for release of Al Jazeera staff

Leader of opposition says Ottawa must send strong message to Egypt to respect human rights and freedom of expression.

Last updated: 17 Apr 2014 14:58
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The imprisonment of Al Jazeera staff has prompted a global campaign for their release [Al Jazeera]

Thomas Mulcair, the leader of Canada's official opposition, has urged the country's prime minister to help secure the release of Al Jazeera staff being held in an Egyptian prison.

In a letter sent to the prime minister's office on Wednesday, Mulcair said that Al Jazeera's Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian citizen, and two of his colleagues were "imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their right to free speech".

"Canada needs to send a strong message to the government of Egypt to respect human rights and defend freedom of expression," the MP wrote.

Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed from Egypt, and Peter Greste, an Australian citizen, have now spent 110 days in jail, with their case now adjourned to April 22.

A fourth Al Jazeera employee, Abdullah Elshamy, has been held in Egypt for more than six months and has been on hunger strike since January 23. His detention was extended for an additional 45 days on March 13.

Mulcair pointed out that Australian PM Tony Abott had already intervened for the release of Greste, while the EU and UN have all called for the release of the Al Jazeera employess.

Dual citizenship

Fahmy, who holds dual citizenship from both Canada and Egypt, graduated from the University of Calgary and previously worked for CNN.

He was arrested as part of what has been described as a broader attack on journalists.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent civil liberties and advocacy organisation, also on Wednesday urged John Baird, the country's foreign affairs minister, to intervene on behalf of Fahmy.

The organisation had previously asked Baird on January 15 to demand his immediate release. 

"In light of the grave breaches to Mr Fahmy's human rights and the troubling implications of his arrest for the safety of journalists and the freedom of the press, we strongly urge you to ... call upon Egyptian authorities to abide by their international legal obligations and in particular, demand the immediate release of Mr Fahmy," Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the NCCM, wrote.

Baird said that he will travel to Egypt and Oman from April 17 to 20 on a visit that "will signal Canada's willingness to support Egypt during this important transition".

Egypt's government has been the subject of recent criticism for human rights violations by a broad spectrum of respected civil society organisations and international governments, including many of Canada's key allies.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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