Human rights lawyer and new wife of George Clooney Amal Alamuddin Clooney issued a joint statement Sunday calling for the release of Al Jazeera journalist Mohammed Fahmy, whom she and fellow lawyer Mark Wassouf say has been falsely accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood and unjustly faces re-trial. Near the end of the statement, Clooney and Wassouf explain “another matter” relevant to the case: the potential confusion caused by the Guardian’s misreporting of an incident involving Clooney and the Egyptian government.
The letter is part of the legal team’s strategy to pressure the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to pardon Fahmy rather than subject him to another trial after the results of the first were overturned. The two lawyers explain that the allegations that Fahmy reported false news and supported the Muslim Brotherhood were untrue and “not backed by any evidence at trial.” Though Fahmy’s appeal for his initial 7-year sentencing was upheld and the sentence repealed, Clooney and Wassouf argue that the Egyptian government’s decision to re-try him is dangerous:
A re-trial process is lengthy and its outcome is uncertain. It is also not clear how a new process would fix any of the deficiencies in the original trial. The charges themselves are a violation of the right to free expression under Egyptian and international law. There are no guarantees that a new panel of judges would respect due process or demand cogent evidence before concluding that a crime was committed. Fahmy cannot therefore count on the retrial process to offer a just or swift solution.
Clooney and Wassouf explain that they are “pursuing discussions with the Egyptian and Canadian authorities in a spirit of cooperation in order to identify a swift and fair resolution to the case” and have submitted a pardon request to the Egyptian President, Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prosecutor-General.
Near the end of the statement, Wassouf and Clooney take time to address “another matter that requires comment”: the potential confusion/tension caused by “misleading” reporting from the Guardian:
Finally, there is another matter that requires comment. An article was published in the Guardian newspaper on 2 January 2015 stating that officials threatened Amal Clooney with arrest in Egypt in connection with her representation of Fahmy. The incident that was recounted in fact arose in early 2014 when the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBA) — which was organizing the launch of a report co-authored by Mrs. Clooney — was warned by experts in Egyptian affairs who were consulted on the launch that she and her colleague risked arrest if they launched the report in Cairo, in light of the criticisms made in the report and recent prosecutions for “crimes” like insulting the judiciary, government or military in Egypt. As a result of these warnings, the IBA decided that it was not safe to hold the launch in Cairo, and the authors were forced to hold it in London instead. This incident arose before Mrs Clooney’s involvement in the Fahmy case, before the current president was in office and in a context entirely unrelated to this case. The journalist has since apologized for the misleading presentation of this matter in the article and corrections were made to the text to attempt to address this. More importantly, the focus today should not be on the risks that lawyers or journalists faced in the past.
Read the full statement here.