Journalist says Canada PM abandoned him during Egypt ordeal

TORONTO (AP) — A Canadian journalist who spent much of last two years jailed in Egypt said Tuesday that he felt “betrayed and abandoned” by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his ordeal.

Mohamed Fahmy, a former al-Jazeera journalist who was released last month after receiving a pardon from Egyptian President el-Sisi, said Harper should have intervened more aggressively to get him freed faster. Instead, Fahmy said, Harper delegated his responsibility to people who lacked the clout to win his freedom.

“Sitting in that prison cell, it was difficult not to feel betrayed and abandoned by Prime Minister Harper,” Fahmy said at a news conference two days after returning to Canada. “Our prime minister delegated his responsibility people who lacked the clout to really get me out of there.”

Fahmy said other Canadian officials including the ambassador in Cairo were “diligent and well-intentioned. The visited me and made sure I was doing well but they didn’t have the authority to plead directly to President el-Sisi and that was what I needed more than anything.”

Fahmy was arrested in 2013 with two Al-Jazeera English colleagues. In a case widely condemned by rights groups, he was sentenced to three years in prison in a retrial this year for airing what a court described as “false news” and coverage biased in favor of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Fahmy and one of his colleagues received a presidential pardon last month. The third colleague, Australian Peter Greste, was released a year ago after former Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott personally intervened.

Harper, who faces re-election Monday, came under criticism from media groups and some prominent Canadians for not doing more to help Fahmy.

A senior government official said Harper spoke with Egypt’s president earlier this year and sent several letters on Fahmy’s behalf, including a letter about four or five weeks ago. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fahmy told The Associated Press on Monday he was not aware that Harper had called Egypt’s president and suggested it only came after an election campaign in Canada put pressure on him.

Fahmy said he returned to Canada a week before Harper faces re-election in the hopes of starting a campaign debate on the issue. He met with opposition Liberal leader Justin Trudeau on Monday and has plans to meet opposition New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair.

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