Cameraman Files $7.4M Suit Against Al Jazeera for Egyptian Terrorism Conviction

Mohamed Fawzi says he was wrongly convicted of terrorism in Egypt because the network failed to secure the proper journalistic permits and aired anti-government propaganda.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A former Al Jazeera cameraman says the network sent him to Cairo knowing that "it was almost guaranteed" he would be arrested, jailed and tortured and now he's forced to seek asylum in the U.S., according to a complaint filed Monday in D.C. federal court.

Mohamed Fawzi says he was assured that Al Jazeera officials had secured all necessary permits so he and his crew could report legally in Egypt and says he relied on those representations when accepting a post in Cairo in 2013.

"During the years of his employment with Al Jazeera, he was constantly reassured by the superiors he worked for that if anything happened to him or his family, they would endeavor to protect him and make sure that he has legal representation and, if necessary, assistance in departing Cairo or any other hotspot in the world where he was reporting from," writes Fawzi's attorney Martin F. McMahon. (Read the full complaint here.)

However, he says those assurances were "a complete fabrication."

He claims because Al Jazeera Media Network is owned by the Qatari government, which was aligned with Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, it has maintained an "extremely antagonistic relationship" with the current Sisi Government. 

Fawzi claims "Al Jazeera has collaborated with Muslim Brotherhood officials to overthrow the Sisi regime and has literally created false news reports designed to embarrass the regime."

In response to the situation, he says the Gulf Cooperation Council implemented changes to Qatar's foreign and domestic relations policies, which included restrictions to what Al Jazeera could air — and in September 2013 an Egyptian administrative court banned the network from broadcasting.

"The Plaintiff did not know that Egyptian Media Production City and Nile Sat had banned all Al Jazeera channels from operating in Egypt and cancelled their operational and licenses prior to his arrival for his work," writes McMahon, adding that the network also didn't inform Fawzi that its Cairo bureau had been raided and four journalists had been detained for working without the required permits.

"The NETWORK further antagonized the Egyptian authorities by consistently broadcasting AJE 'reporting packages (i.e., content produced by the AJE Cairo Bureau) with Arabic voiceovers on the banned AJMM channel," writes McMahon. "NETWORK knew or ought to have known that the Rebroadcasting Practice would and in fact did create the appearance that all AJE Cairo Bureau personnel were producing content for the banned AJMM channel in defiance of Egyptian law."

Because of the network's affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt had declared a terrorist organization, Fawzi says he and several of his colleagues were arrested. 

Following an interrogation by Egyptian security in December 2013, he fled to the U.S. Fawzi says he was tried in absentia, convicted, sentenced to 10 years in prison and designated as an international terrorist.

"That terrorist definition and his criminal conviction requires that he remain in America for the rest of his life," McMahon writes. "That designation also precludes future job opportunities for him in America."

Fawzi is suing for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel and negligent infliction of emotional distress. He is asking the court to enter a $2.4 million judgment against the network as well as $5 million in punitive damages.

Al Jazeera has not yet responded to a request for comment.