Fahmy reports that Al Jazeera – to which I occasionally contribute – still refers to “100 journalists imprisoned in Egypt”. “But it’s not true. I was in prison with all these thousands of men; there are nine Egyptian journalists in trade unions who are in jail and five others who had no press credentials – the rest are students with iPads and calling themselves ‘citizen journalists’.”
Is there a bit of Stockholm Syndrome getting loose here? Off the record, Al Jazeera officials have suggested that Fahmy has been operating under duress from the Egyptian government although their initial denials that Mubasher used Fahmy’s reports are no longer made. “I agree with what el-Sisi did in uprooting the Brotherhood,” Fahmy says, shockingly. “I witnessed first-hand the cancer of political Islam and how it was eradicating the modernity of the Egypt I know. Waiting four years [for the next elections] and using ‘experimental drugs’ on a cancer patient will leave him dead. We had to extract the tumour.”
Heavy stuff! As if sensing this, he slows down. “But I do believe it went way too far. The clampdown on civil liberties in Egypt, on the press and human rights groups and the clogged judicial system should be a first priority in the next stage of el-Sisi’s reforms. Egypt is caught between the Baathist-Saddam times – when everything had to go the president’s way … and this modern model that el-Sisi is trying to use…”
Well, Fahmy has at last got his Canadian passport – handed to him, he tells me, by the Canadian ambassador next to his embassy car outside the court “so that journalists couldn’t see” – but his press conference should be a riveting performance. “There’s a cold war between Egypt and Qatar [which supports the Brotherhood],” he says. “And there’s also a ‘cold war’ between me and Al Jazeera.” How soon, I wonder, before we see an interview between Fahmy and el-Sisi?