Nearly two years after his arrest in Egypt on widely denounced terrorism charges, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy walked out of prison a free man Wednesday, Sept. 23, following a presidential pardon.
Fahmy and his colleague and co-accused Baher Mohamed were among 100 people—including dozens of prominent human rights activists—pardoned by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the eve of the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
“I am free! This time for real! Cops dropped me at CAC my old high school in my prison garb. Party Time! #FreeAJStaff,” Fahmy tweeted moments after his release.
Speaking later to reporters, Fahmy said he still “can’t believe it.”
“We have not digested the fact that we are free, we don’t have to worry about anything else,” he said. “Our families have suffered so much since the beginning of this trial and we’re very happy that el-Sissi took this action and released us.”
His wife, Marwa Omara, said she was visiting Fahmy in prison when she learned the news of his pardon from a TV set that was on.
“I was scared for his health from too much joy,” she said, adding that the first thing they plan to do is have a large wedding party to celebrate their recent marriage.
Fahmy’s lawyer, Amal Clooney, said she’s delighted that the journalist is finally free.
“This is a historic day in Egypt where the government has finally corrected a long-standing injustice, and set two innocent men free,” she said in a statement.
Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said he was pleased to hear about Fahmy’s release.
“This has been a priority of the government,” Nicholson said at an event in Toronto. “I can tell you that in my conversation with the Egyptian foreign minister a couple of weeks ago I was both optimistic and encouraged by the comments that he made, and so I’m glad to see that has come to fruition and pleased to hear of the pardon.”
Fahmy and Mohamed, who both worked for Al Jazeera, were arrested in December 2013, and the long-running case was widely condemned by rights groups and international organizations.
Once he leaves Egypt, Fahmy has said he plans to take up a position as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of journalism in Vancouver. He is also writing a book about his experiences.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Fahmy was one of 12 journalists imprisoned in Egypt in 2014.