TIME Egypt

Amal Clooney Clarifies Near Arrest in Op-Ed, Urges Release of al-Jazeera Journalist

Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney looks on during a news conference at the Acropolis museum in Athens
Human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney looks on during a news conference at the Acropolis museum in Athens on Oct. 15, 2014 Alkis Konstantinidis—Reuters

The human-rights lawyer, who married Hollywood actor George Clooney last year, said the incident that led to an arrest warning from Egyptian authorities had nothing to do with her representation of Mohamed Famy

Correction appended: Jan. 5, 2014

Amal Clooney, the international human-rights lawyer currently representing jailed al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Famy, called for his release in an op-ed on Sunday, while also clearing up a recent report that she was threatened with arrest by authorities in Egypt, where Famy is currently detained.

The op-ed, published by the WorldPost and co-authored by Famy’s other counsel Mark Wassouf, expresses reservations against the proposed retrial of Famy following the cancellation of his and two colleagues’ jail sentences. “A re-trial process is lengthy and its outcome is uncertain,” the op-ed reads. “It is also not clear how a new process would fix any of the deficiencies in the original trial.”

Clooney and Wassouf further state a hope and expectation that Famy will be pardoned by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi or extradited to his home country of Canada. They also call for the immediate temporary release of the journalist on health grounds.

Addressing a report in the Guardian last week that she was nearly arrested for her representation of Famy, Clooney said the incident took place in early 2014 before she got involved in his case and before al-Sisi came to power. She was reportedly warned that publishing of a report she co-authored by the International Bar Association could lead to her arrest, following which the launch was moved from Cairo to London.

“The [Guardian] 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,” the op-ed says.

[The WorldPost]

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the source of the op-ed written by Amal Clooney and Mark Wassouf. It was published by the WorldPost.

TIME Egypt

Australian’s Family Hopes Egypt Will Deport Him

Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste
Al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, from left, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and correspondent Peter Greste appear in court during their trial on terror charges in Cairo on March 31, 2014 Heba Elkholy—AP

Under a recently passed law, Egypt's President el-Sissi has the power to deport the foreigners during their trial

(CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA)— Brothers of an Australian Al-Jazeera English journalist held in Egypt for more than a year said Friday that their lawyers were focusing on deportation at President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s command as their best option.

An Egyptian appeals court on Thursday ordered the retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists including Peter Greste held on terror-related charges, a ruling that their lawyers hoped was a step toward resolving a case that brought a storm of international criticism on Egypt’s government.

Greste’s brothers Michael and Andrew held a press conference in their hometown of Brisbane on Friday and said the family’s hopes were pinned on a presidential decree made in November that created a deportation option for bringing the 49-year-old home.

Michael Greste said their case for deportation was made stronger by Thursday’s ruling by the Court of Cassation that made their brother an accused man rather than a convicted criminal.

“We’ve got to be hopeful,” Michael Greste said. “It’s a new decree and there’s very little understood about it, there’s very little regulation, there’s no precedent so obviously we’re in unchartered waters there.”

“But I’d like to think that the decree was enacted for a reason to be used, so we’re going to test it out,” he said.

Under the recently passed law, el-Sissi has the power to deport the foreigners during their trial. That would allow Greste to go home and would allow his Canadian-Egyptian co-accused Mohammed Fahmy to go to Canada if he drops his Egyptian nationality.

The case of the third accused journalist, Baher Mohammed, would remain more uncertain as he holds only Egyptian citizenship.

Australian Foreign Minister Bishop told Nine Network television on Friday that her government had “some optimism” that Greste could be transferred to Australia now that his convictions had been overturned. She hoped to speak to the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry soon.

“The law in Egypt has changed since Peter Greste was first detained over 12 months ago and there’s now an opportunity for a prisoner transfer agreement,” Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.

“The law is not very clear, it is a new law, but it does provide for a couple of options for prisoners to be transferred back to their home country, in this case Australia,” she said.

Fahmy’s family said they had already submitted a request for deportation.

The three could remain behind bars at least until the retrial begins. But their lawyers expressed cautious optimism that a quick retrial will lead to their eventual exoneration.

Thursday’s ruling, rights advocates said, exposed the highly politicized nature of their initial conviction and heavy sentences of up to 10 years in prison in a trial that they dismissed as a sham with no evidence.

Egyptian authorities offered no immediate comment on the ruling.

Fahmy and Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohammed got 10 years — three more because he was found with a spent bullet casing, which brought him an added possession of ammunition charge. The defendants argued they were arrested for just doing their jobs.

____

AP journalists Maggie Michael in Cairo and Abdullah Rebhy in Doha, Qatar, contributed to this report.

TIME Egypt

An Egyptian Court Orders a Retrial For the Jailed Al Jazeera Journalists

Mohamed Famy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste have been in prison for over a year, convicted of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood

The three Al Jazeera journalists incarcerated in Egypt received a glimmer of hope on Thursday, when a court canceled their jail sentences and ordered a retrial.

However, Mohamed Famy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were denied bail at an appeal hearing, with the judge ruling that their case had to be reviewed by a criminal court, Al Jazeera reported.

Famy, Greste and Mohamed have been in prison for over a year after being convicted of conspiring with the now banned Muslim Brotherhood. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years each in prison, while Mohamed received an additional three years for possession of a spent bullet casing he had picked up during one of the protests.

Al Jazeera has maintained that the charges against its employees are baseless and absurd, and the defense lawyers said they expect the retrial to be held within a month.

The trio’s families were not satisfied with the verdict, having harbored the hope that they would be released this week.

[Al Jazeera]

TIME Qatar

At Egypt’s Request, Qatar Suspends Al-Jazeera Affiliate in Cairo

Mideast Qatar Egypt Al Jazeera
In this Wednesday Nov. 1, 2006 file photo, A Qatari employee of Al Jazeera Arabic language TV news channel passes by the logo of Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. Kamran Jebreili—AP

The channel has been alone domestically in covering the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's beleaguered political party

In a concession to Egyptian authorities, Qatar will stop broadcasting an Al-Jazeera affiliate in Cairo that has criticized Egypt’s military-led government.

In agreeing to the suspension, Qatar is seeking closer ties with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, which had urged the tiny gulf state to cease its long-time support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — the political party of the ousted president whom Sisi displaced, Mohamed Morsi, Reuters reports. Qatar owns Al-Jazeera, though the international news channel is yet largely seen a free voice in a region severely wanting for free media voices.

The local station, Al Jazeera Live Egypt, was the last major news outlet in Egypt that was willing to cover the Brotherhood.

Two journalists for Al Jazeera —Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy — began serving seven-year sentences last December on charges of conspiring with the Brotherhood against the Egyptian state, while a third, Baher Mohamed, received a ten-year sentence. All three vehemently deny the charges, which have been condemned by human-rights groups.

[Reuters]

TIME

Amal Alamuddin Is The Latest Exhibit in the Museum of Disempowered Women

Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney speaks to media in Athens, Oct. 13, 2014.
Lawyer Amal Clooney speaks to media in Athens on Oct. 13, 2014 Yorgos Karahalis—Reuters

The new Mrs. Clooney is advising the Greek government on its campaign to regain looted sculptures. But the overlapping interests of her and her husband feels uncomfortable

Amal Clooney, lawyer, is reported to be at the epicenter of “the west’s longest-running cultural row.” The Guardian, which coined the phrase, meant the two-century-long tussle between Athens and London over the rightful home of marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1805 by the English aristocrat Lord Elgin and later sold by him to the British Museum, where they still reside. Clooney, née Alamuddin, arrived in Greece on Oct. 13 at the invitation of the Greek Culture Minister to assist with the campaign for the marbles’ return.

But the frenzy of flashbulbs and fashion commentary that greeted Clooney’s visit shows that she has become entangled in a cultural row of greater longevity and importance than the disposition of some antique artworks, however significant those may be. Throughout her adult life, this 36-year-old attorney specializing in international jurisprudence, extradition and criminal law has stood on her own merits accomplished, independent, respected. Now her identity risks being spirited away as the sculptures she seeks to repatriate once were. Even in the 21st century and among first-world elites, marriage retains the power to transform women into appendages, while celebrity culture reliably reduces females to ciphers. Since Alamuddin’s engagement and Venice wedding to actor George Clooney, she has never been more closely observed by a wider audience — or in greater danger of disappearing.

You might say this is Amal Clooney’s business. It is she who chose to say “I do” not only to “Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor” but also to celebrity-encrusted nuptials that created “intimate, exclusive” images for the happy couple, friends, family and the many millions of readers of publications such as People and Hello! to enjoy, showcasing the bride’s ability not only to anatomize the unfair trial of al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt under the military-backed government but also to wear nice dresses and skyscraper heels. It is Clooney who chose to retire the maiden name of Alamuddin under which she had scored many career successes and a client roster including Julian Assange and Yulia Tymoshenko. It was not, however, Clooney who chose to memorialize her first professional foray as the new Mrs. Clooney with banal reportage like this (“Move over, Kate Middleton! There’s a new hair queen in town!”). Clooney has always seemed to wear her startling beauty as lightly as her startling accomplishments, and there is nothing to suggest that she has changed.

The problem — and the reason the media repurposing of Clooney from queen of jurisprudence to hair-queen matters — is that there is still a dearth of women who rise to prominence through their own merits, reflecting the harsh reality of a world resolutely skewed against female achievement.

Many interlocking mechanisms keep women down, but in watching the transmogrification — and trivialization — of Clooney we are witnessing one of the most pernicious of these. I laughed back in June, when Britain’s Daily Mail turned its report about a global summit on combatting sexual violence into a slavering commentary on Clooney’s appearance. I laughed at reporting of the Alamuddin-Clooney marriage so tremulously overexcited by the groom (two-time “sexiest man alive”!) that it characterized the bride’s crowning attainment as “snaring” him. I laughed louder at the spoof headlines this spectacle inspired: “Internationally Acclaimed Attorney Marries an Actor,” etc.

I also laughed at that actor’s ham-fisted attempt earlier this year to boost the long-running initiative to reclaim the Parthenon marbles for Greece. “Even in England, the polling is in favor of returning the Pantheon [sic] marbles, the marbles from the Pantheon,” George Clooney said during a promotional tour for his movie about the restitution of art looted by the Nazis, The Monuments Men.

There’s nothing wrong and a lot right with stars using their celebrity power to publicize worthy causes (though it’s generally better to do the research first). However the overlapping interest of Mr. and Mrs. Clooney in this case feels uncomfortable. The Greek government originally approached the then Amal Alamuddin in 2 B.C. — that’s 2011, two years Before Clooney entered her life. Greece sought her services and those of her storied colleagues at the London-based law firm Doughty Chambers for one reason only: their collective legal expertise. Now Mrs. Clooney’s involvement in the case has been ascribed a new and more tenuous value. “We will of course be discussing all our legal options but what we really want is to keep the issue alive,” a “well-placed policy maker” told the Guardian. “There would be no better way of doing that than getting Hollywood involved and, hopefully, [George] Clooney too.”

A brilliant lawyer and strong female role model is being misappropriated, to be put on show as the latest exhibit in the Museum of Disempowered Women. Never mind restoring the marbles to Greece: give us back Amal!

TIME Egypt

Toppled Egyptian President Morsi Charged With Leaking State Secrets

Mohammed Morsi
Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, May 8, 2014. Tarek el-Gabbas—AP

The move is part of the government crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood

Prosecutors in Egypt Saturday charged former President Mohamed Morsi and nine others with endangering national security by leaking state secrets to Qatar and its affiliated news agency, Al Jazeera.

Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who came to power in elections following the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, was toppled in a military coup in July 2013 led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who later went on to become president. Al-Sisi’s rule has been marked by an extremely harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.

A statement from the prosecutor’s office said an investigation of Morsi “exposed humiliating facts and the extent of the largest conspiracy and treason carried out by the terrorist Brotherhood organization against the nation through a network of spies,” Reuters reports. Under the al-Sisi government, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered an illegal terrorist organization, though the once-powerful group officially disavowed violence decades ago.

The charges allege that Morsi aides helped leak documents revealing vital Egyptian military intelligence as well as foreign and domestic policy matters.

Under Al-Sisi’s rule, Egypt has also suppressed the activities of Al Jazeera, closing its offices in Cairo and jailing three of its journalists on terms of up to ten years for allegedly aiding a “terrorist group.” Al Jazeera continues to demand the release of its journalists.

[Reuters]

TIME Egypt

Al-Jazeera Reporter in Egypt Freed After Hunger Strike

Abdullah Elshamy
Al-Jazeera Arabic service journalist Abdullah Elshamy, who had been on hunger strike for more than four months to protest his prolonged detention without charges, speaks to the media after his release from detention in Cairo on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Nariman El-Mofty—AP

Citing concerns about his deteriorating health, Egyptian authorities released a journalist for the news service al-Jazeera on Tuesday after jailing him without charges for more than 10 months.

Abdullah Elshamy, 26, was thin, weak and still dressed in a prison uniform as he walked out of a police station near Cairo following a 147-day hunger strike, CBS News reports.

“I won,” he said to reporters.

Elshamy was among a group of al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt after the military retook control of the country last year following the overthrow of elected President Mohamed Morsi. Three of Elshamy’s fellow al-Jazeera reporters remain jailed for lending support to the Muslim Brotherhood and are facing terrorism-related charges, which they deny.

The journalists’ arrests are part of a wider crackdown on press freedom in Egypt that has not improved since the June 3 inauguration of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

[CBS News]

 

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