Journalist on trial in Egypt sues Al-Jazeera for negligence

Al Jazeera's former Egypt bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, who has spent a year behind bars on terrorism-related charges, is suing his employer for endangering its staff.

Amr Nabil
Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy, left, and his Egyptian colleague Baher Mohammed, speak to reporters after their retrial at a courtroom, in Tora prison, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy, who faces a retrial in Egypt after more than a year behind bars on terrorism-related charges, says he has filed a lawsuit in Canada against the Al-Jazeera network.

At a press conference Fahmy, who at the time of his arrest was Al-Jazeera English's acting bureau chief in Egypt, accused the Qatari-funded network of endangering him and his colleagues.

"Now, I will sue them at any cost, and I will win," said Fahmy. "They don't seem to understand that they cannot continue to challenge the sovereignty of governments, put the story ahead of the safety of their employees, and assume that they will continue to get away with it."

His lawyer Joanna Gialason told reporters that the lawsuit filed at the British Columbia Supreme Court on May 5 seeks $100 million in punitive and remedial damages and accuses Al-Jazeera of negligence, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.

Fahmy accused Al-Jazeera Arabic platforms of advocating for the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi that has been branded a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government. He said Al-Jazeera's local affiliate Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr provided cameras to Brotherhood members and took raw footage from them, without making Al-Jazeera English staff aware of their practices.

A statement issued by Al-Jazeera said, "It's sad to see Fahmy and his lawyer repeating criticisms of Al-Jazeera made by the Egyptian authorities. It's what his captors want to hear at this stage of the retrial. All governments have news outlets that they don't like, but they don't use spurious grounds to put journalists in jail. If Fahmy wants to seek monetary compensation from anyone, it should be from his jailers."

Egypt and Qatar have had tense relations since 2013, when the Egyptian military ousted Morsi amid massive protests. Doha is a strong backer of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the region. Cairo accused Al-Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for Morsi's supporters, charges denied by the broadcaster.

Fahmy is being tried along with Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed on charges accusing them of being part of a terrorist group and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security. Human rights groups have criticized their trial. Fahmy, who was bureau chief for just three months before being detained in December 2013, maintains that his team was doing balanced and independent reporting.

Fahmy, a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen, was asked to give up his Egyptian nationality by Egyptian officials in order to qualify for deportation. It's not clear why he was not then deported, but Fahmy said he thinks Canada could have pressed Cairo harder on the matter.

Fahmy and Mohammed were released on bail in February. Australian journalist Peter Greste, also charged in the case, was deported from Egypt the same month.

Prosecutors are expected to begin their closing arguments in the retrial on June 1.

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