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Freed reporter to sue Al-Jazeera over Egypt imprisonment

Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy said yesterday that he will sue his employer for $100 million in compensation for the “psychological harm” he sustained during nearly a year spent behind bars in Egypt over a controversial trial on violence-related charges.

Fahmy, who was released from prison earlier this year, accused the Qatari news network of violating his employment contract by not refunding his lawyers’ fees.

“[Al Jazeera] has also deviated from standards of balanced, professional coverage in tackling Egypt-related news since it is the media arm of Qatar’s policies in the Middle East,” Fahmy said during a press conference in Cairo on Monday.

Fahmy, who holds dual Egyptian-Canadian citizenship, voluntarily gave up his Egyptian nationality in February in order to qualify for a recently-issued presidential decree allowing for the deportation of foreigners convicted in Egyptian courts.

Joanna Gialason, one of Fahmy’s legal advisors, said the lawsuit will be filed before Canadian courts.

Gialason said that Al-Jazeera was responsible for the imprisonment of Fahmy and two other reporters in late 2013 on charges of “abetting terrorism”.

She added that Al-Jazeera had adopted irresponsible practices by continuing to defend ousted President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group despite the latter’s designation as a “terrorist organisation” by the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Fahmy also stated that he held the network responsible for his imprisonment and refused the reference to some detainees in Egypt as “journalists”.

“It is not logical to consider anyone who was arrested for filming an opposition protest with an e-tablet as a journalist,” Fahmy said.

In February, an Egyptian court ordered a retrial of Al-Jazeera reporters, including Fahmy.

In June of last year, Fahmy and his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste – the latter of whom is an Australian national – were all slapped with jail terms ranging from seven to ten years each after being convicted of “broadcasting false news” and “threatening Egypt’s national security”.

Greste and Fahmy were each sentenced to seven years in jail, while Mohamed was given a ten year term.

Three other foreign Al-Jazeera correspondents – two Britons and one Dutch national – were sentenced in absentia to ten years in prison each.

In January, Greste was deported to Australia on orders of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi.

The move was based on a 2014 law that gives the president the right to order the deportation of foreign nationals convicted of committing crimes in Egypt.

The trio was originally detained in late 2013 at a Cairo hotel only days after Egyptian authorities branded the Muslim Brotherhood – the group from which ousted President Mohamed Morsi hails.

Several western governments and rights groups had called for the journalists’ release amid an international solidarity campaign launched by Al-Jazeera.

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