In early August, Egypt made international headlines once again for excluding its critics when a Human Rights Watch (HRW) delegation was denied entry into the country.
HRW's executive director, Kenneth Roth, and Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson arrived in Cairo on August 10 to attend a press conference where they were to present a report on the group's year-long investigation into the mass killings during the Raba'a dispersal in August of last year. The pair were held in the Cairo airport for 12 hours and then deported. It was the first time that HRW has ever been denied entry into the country.
The three journalists – Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, all considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience – were sentenced to seven years in jail. Baher Mohamed received a further three years on a separate charge of possessing a bullet shell. They have been detained since 29 December 2013.
Their crime? Reporting the news and challenging the “official version” presented by the authorities. Amnesty International believes they are prisoners of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.
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There's something about a Canadian passport that offers its owner a degree of confidence. After all, in the hierarchy of citizenships, Canada ranks near the top. A Canadian passport can get you into 170 countries without a visa.
But it can't get you out of jail; even if it's clear that you've been wrongfully accused.