CAIRO (Reuters) - An Al Jazeera television journalist on trial in Egypt has filed a lawsuit in a Canadian court accusing his employer of negligence and has demanded $100 million (64 million pounds) in compensation, his lawyer said on Monday.
Mohamed Fahmy, who spent more than 400 days in a Cairo jail on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation, suggested Al Jazeera’s actions had landed him in jail. Fahmy is a naturalised Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship.
Fahmy and another Al Jazeera journalist, Baher Mohamed, were originally sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison on charges that included spreading lies to help a “terrorist organisation”, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood was banned after the Egyptian military overthrew former President Mohamed Mursi, whom the group had backed. After it was banned, the Brotherhood was publicly supported by Qatar, where Al Jazeera is headquartered.
Peter Greste, an Australian colleague who was sentenced with Fahmy and Mohamed, was freed and deported earlier this year. All three denied the charges. In January, a court ordered a retrial, citing procedural flaws.
“It’s sad to see Fahmy and his lawyer repeating criticisms of Al Jazeera made by the Egyptian authorities,” said an Al Jazeera spokesman.
“It’s what his captors want to hear at this stage of the retrial. All governments have news outlets 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.”
At a news conference in Cairo, Fahmy’s lawyer, Joanna Gialason, said the lawsuit asks the court to declare Al Jazeera negligent in its conduct towards Fahmy. It says the network should pay $100 million in punitive and remedial damages for its role in Fahmy’s conviction and subsequent imprisonment.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s human rights record has come under scrutiny since he, as army chief, toppled Mursi as President in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
A crackdown launched thereafter resulted in hundreds killed and thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members put in jail.
Sisi has said that he wished the Al Jazeera journalists had been deported and not put on trial.
Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Michael Georgy and Larry King