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Fiancée Of Imprisoned Journalist Advocates For His Release


Three Al Jazeera English journalists in eastern Egypt have been in jail for eight months now convicted on terrorism charges despite international pressure to let them go. One of those journalists is Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy. His fiance talked to NPR about how she's dealt with his incarceration. NPR's Leila Fadel sent this report.

MARWA OMARA: My name is Marwa Omara. I'm 30 years old. I'm Mohamed Fahmy's fiance.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: For Marwa, life stopped on December 29, the day her fiance was pulled from a swank hotel in Cairo and jailed along with his colleagues Peter Greste, an Australian, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian. They were accused of supporting terrorism and being members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. No evidence was ever presented in court to support the charges.

OMARA: I work in PR and communications. All my concern was about just the hair style and, you know, makeup and the latest fashion. I was never into politics. I never had a Twitter account.

FADEL: That's all changed now. Marwa spends every waking moment thinking of ways to get her fiance freed. She meets with ministers. She has letters from well-known Egyptian political figures and businessmen attesting to Fahmy's character.

OMARA: It's a nightmare for me. And it was very shocking to go through all of this.

FADEL: A shock that changed Marwa. She still goes to work every day. She is still perfectly put together - her makeup pristine, her hair flowing. But she says acting like everything's OK is the hardest part.

OMARA: I was silent for the last seven months. And then I decided that I have to break my silence. I have to support him. I have to be next to him. I can't just be quiet and not fight for him.

FADEL: Fahmy and his colleagues have appealed the conviction. The men and their families say they're being punished over a rift between Egypt and Qatar. Qatar owns the Al Jazeera network and is seen as a supporter of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood. Fahmy and Greste were given seven-year sentences, and Baher Mohamed got 10 years.

OMARA: I tried to be positive. I tried to be strong to show him that I'm strong and I'm fighting for him. But again, just seeing him suffering is not an easy thing for me.

FADEL: In April 2014, she and Fahmy were supposed to get married. It would've been a grand affair, but Mohamed is still in jail so Marwa is planning to marry him anyway. They've applied to take their vows in prison. In part, she's doing it to tell the world that she knows he's innocent.

OMARA: Also, I'm doing this just to tell Mohamed that I love him and to raise his confidence and morale. And also, I just want to do it. I just want to do it for him.

FADEL: Their courtship has changed. Their first date was a raucous New Year's party. Now she sees him for 45 minutes twice a month.

OMARA: Every time I see him, he gets me flowers from the prison garden. And I try to keep them with me as long as possible.

FADEL: After our chart, Marwa heads out on a daily shopping trip. Fahmy was put in the hospital waiting surgery on his shoulder. So she tries to visit him every day with comforts from home if the guards let her in, that is.

OMARA: You know, I don't mind doing this every day. It's too costly for me, but I don't mind doing anything just to see him, you know.

FADEL: She picks up blue cheese, bananas, bread, pop and chocolate and then gets a few plants for his hospital room. Human Rights groups say Fahmy and his colelagues are among thousands of people languishing in Egyptian prisons after show trials. The space for freedom of speech is closing, and political opposition is basically illegal. And even with all the international pressure, the three men are still in jail. This case is so high-profile, George Clooney's fiance, human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, recently joined Fahmy's legal team.

OMARA: I don't know what will be the end or what's going to happen next. It's hard to predict. But we will keep fighting til the end.

FADEL: Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.