Reporter Blames Al Jazeera for Horrors

           VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – An Al Jazeera bureau chief awaiting retrial on terrorism charges in Egypt blames the network for his 412 days imprisonment there, in a lawsuit in British Columbia.
     Mohamed Fahmy sued Al Jazeera Media Network in British Columbia Supreme Court, claiming it endangered its Cairo-based news team by failing to get accreditation for foreign staff, by broadcasting material provided by the Muslim Brotherhood – and by failing to tell him that the Egyptian government had banned Al Jazeera.
     The Egyptian government banned an Arabic version of the network called “Egypt Live.” Fahmy was in charge of Al Jazeera English, and the network translated its stories and broadcast them on a banned channel.
Fahmy, an Egypt-born Canadian citizen, is still unable to leave Egypt. He awaits retrial on widely denounced terrorism charges that kept him imprisoned from December 2013 until February this year.
     Before being hired by Al Jazeera, Fahmy freelanced from Egypt as a television reporter and producer for outlets including CNN, according to his May 5 lawsuit.
     Fahmy claims that the network, owned by the Qatari government, failed to tell him that it had been banned by the Egyptian government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after the fall of Mohamed Morsi.
     Fahmy says his predecessor fled Egypt back to Qatar after a raid on the network’s Cairo offices, and the network hired him the next day – without telling him that it was broadcasting in defiance of a ban by the Egyptian government.
     Al Jazeera managers failed to secure broadcast equipment licenses and accreditation for the network’s Cairo-based staff, which put Fahmy and others “at heightened risk for legal sanction from Egyptian authorities,” he says in the 17-page lawsuit.
     Meanwhile, the network was “surreptitiously paying activist anti-government members of the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliates to produce video footage and other content for broadcast,” Fahmy says.
     Fahmy claims he consistently told higher-ups at the network that broadcasting in defiance of the ban was putting staff in danger, but the network failed to stop. It continued broadcasting material in hopes of destabilizing the Sisi regime, which maintains an “extremely antagonistic” relationship with the Qatari government.
     On Dec. 29, 2013, Fahmy and another Al Jazeera staffer were arrested at the Cairo Marriott hotel, where the network had set up operations after its original offices were raided. Fahmy and others were charged with “joining, promoting and supporting a terrorist organization, namely the Muslim Brotherhood.”
     Fahmy’s 412 days in prison included a month in solitary confinement in the terrorist wing of the country’s “notorious Tora Supermax or ‘Scorpion’ Prison,” according to the lawsuit.
     Instead of trying to secure his release, the network kept broadcasting on the banned channel while initiating a multimillion-dollar trade dispute with Egypt over the purported wrongful expropriation of Al Jazeera’s investments in the country, Fahmy says.
     He says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to his ordeal, and his conviction on terrorism charges has hurt his personal and professional reputation. He had to give up his Egyptian citizenship and can no longer practice journalism in the country.
     He seeks unspecified general and special damages for trial expenses and his anticipated relocation from Egypt to Vancouver, plus $60 million in punitive damages.
     He is represented by Gary Caroline and Joanna Gislason in Vancouver and Dr. Mohamed Hamouda in Cairo, Egypt.

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