We are happy to announce that Yasser Albaz has been released by Egyptian authorities and has arrived this morning at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Our family’s ordeal is finally coming to an end.
We are extremely grateful for the support of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Minister Anita Anand, Ambassador Jess Dutton, and supportive members of parliament and government staff. We are forever grateful for each and every person who supported our family.
Yasser’s health has deteriorated and our top priority will be his much needed medical treatment. We ask that he be given time to quietly heal from this ordeal and spend quality time with his family.
OTTAWA – Family members of a Canadian man who has been imprisoned in Egypt for more than a year, worry he has been infected with COVID-19 and is not receiving enough medical care.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi late Wednesday about the case of Yasser Albaz, but there is still no plan to bring the man home to Canada.
Albaz has been held in an Egyptian prison since February, 2019, after being detained by Egyptian authorities just before he was scheduled to return to Oakville, Ont.
Albaz’s daughter Amal Albaz said they’re pleased that the prime minister raised the case, but it isn’t enough.
“We’re obviously still very concerned about my father’s health and he needs to be treated immediately and in a Canadian hospital,” she said. “We are very grateful, but of course, it’s not over until he lands here in Canada.”
Trudeau said he and el-Sisi discussed Albaz’s case on the call. Trudeau said the government is pressing for his release.
“We will continue as a country to stand up for Canadians in difficulty overseas,” he said.
He said they have heard the pleas from family members who have organized demonstrations in recent weeks.
“We are working very closely with Egyptian authorities on this case and will continue to monitor it closely, hearing very clearly the voices of family members and concerned Canadians about Mr. Albaz’s situation.”
The official readout of the call said that the two leaders discussed consular issues and discussed ways to strengthen ties between Canada and Egypt. They also discussed COVID-19 and how to deepen cooperation between the two countries.
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Albaz said her father has been exposed to COVID-19 and recently began showing symptoms. She said those symptoms have only continued to escalate into pneumonia and difficulty breathing.
“All the classic COVID symptoms turned into the complications that we feared they would turn into,” she said.
There haven’t been any accusations or allegations put forth towards him
Albaz said they still don’t understand why her father was arrested in the first place.
“To this day, he hasn’t been charged with anything. There haven’t been any accusations or allegations put forth towards him,” she said. “For 16 months and counting, there hasn’t been a single indication, by the Egyptians, as to why they’re holding my father.”
Her father came to Canada 20 years ago and was travelling on a Canadian passport. She said he owns an engineering company and is active in his community, but she said he isn’t involved in Egyptian politics.
She said as far as they are aware he is still being held in Tora prison where the conditions are cramped and unsanitary.
Albaz is pregnant, due in just a few weeks and said she wants her father home to meet his new grandchild.
“I hope this birth is not just the addition of a new members to our family, but I hope it can be a new chapter for my family.”
TORONTO — The family of a Canadian man imprisoned in Egypt without any charges against him are calling on the federal government’s help to transfer him to a private hospital as he struggles to breath while fighting pneumonia, and possibly COVID-19.
Yasser Ahmed Albaz, a 52-year-old Canadian engineer, has been imprisoned at the notorious Tora prison since February 2019 after he was detained at the airport on his way home to Oakville from a business trip.
While the Canadian government has said previously that Yasser Ahmed Albaz is top priority, the family says its approach is lacking and its taking no concrete steps to rescue him.
“I haven’t heard back from the government and haven’t received acknowledgment and it’s very concerning because the urgency has escalated,” his daughter, Amal Ahmed Albaz, told CTV News Toronto on Monday. “I have been saying his life is on the line, but now it’s hanging by a thread.”
Amal says the family contacted Canadian doctors on Monday explaining her father’s condition and his pre-medical risk factors of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Her father, she said, is currently struggling to breathe due to pneumonia and has low oxygen levels and all the COVID-19 symptoms.
The Canadian doctors, she said, told her that he could die without proper medical intervention due to his pre-existing health issues and his current symptoms.
“We need the government to everything they can to get him to a private a hospital. A Canadian is dying in an Egyptian prison and our Canadian government needs to get him to a hospital,” Amal said.
“His life is on Canada, he is Justin Trudeau’s responsibility. If something happens to him it’s on our government.”
Protests have taken place across Ontario for over a week now as family members race to pressure the federal government to help bring Yasser Ahmed Albaz back home. His daughter says the family has done nine protests in just a week.
“To think of my father struggling to breath in a cell by himself with no medication, I don’t know how much worse than that it can get,” Amal said, her voice wrought with emotion.
“Our government must bring him home and until they do that they must make sure that he’s getting treatment in a private hospital in Egypt. There’s not a second to lose because my father might not get that second.”
Amnesty International is also calling on the federal government to urgently intervene in the case, saying that Yasser Albaz had been arbitrarily detained and his life is on the line.
“Yasser Albaz’s arbitrary detention is particularly concerning due to his ongoing health concerns, including symptoms of COVID-19,” Justin Mohammed, human rights law and policy campaigner at Amnesty International, said.
“The absence of regular consular visits place Mr. Albaz’s wellbeing in jeopardy, and Canada must take all steps to ensure that he remains healthy and continue to work to secure his release and return to his family.”
The international human rights organization said its concerned about “the spread of COVID-19 in Egyptian prisons and considers inmates to be particularly vulnerable due to unsanitary living conditions, the impossibility of physical distancing and inadequate healthcare.”
CTV News Toronto has reached out to Global Affairs Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office on the issue but has not yet received a response.
Missed birthdays and graduations. An empty seat at a wedding. A child who barely knows his grandfather.
The last 16 months have been a “nightmare” for Amal Ahmed Albaz and her family in Oakville, Ont.
Her father, Yasser Albaz, has been imprisoned in Egypt since February 2019, when he was detained at the airport in Cairo while on his way home from a business trip. His detention has been widely condemned as arbitrary, as he hasn’t been charged with anything.
Just weeks away from welcoming her third child, Amal’s pain is all the more searing.
“My four-year-old thinks his grandfather is still on a plane coming back home and it’s just taking a really long time. And here I am, about to give birth. I can only hope he’s here with us for that,” she told Global News.
“We’re living this nightmare. It doesn’t feel like a dream.”
Amal has been fighting tirelessly to bring Albaz home and escalate his case to the Canadian government. That fight took on a new sense of urgency one week ago when the family received word he may have contracted COVID-19 in prison.
“It is literally a matter of life and death right now,” she said. “We cannot waste another second because I don’t know if my father has that second.”
He has “all the classic symptoms,” Amal said, including severe cough, high fever, difficulty breathing, and tightness in his chest. The family said they received “reliable information” about his health after another prisoner in the same wing died of the virus. Albaz, 52, also has pre-existing health conditions that make him more susceptible to the virus.
“On top of that, there’s the horrible condition of the prison,” she said. “Cramped cells, no ventilation, sleeping on a cold, concrete floor, no medication. None of that whatsoever.”
At some point, Albaz was transferred from prison to a hospital, she said. He was eventually returned to the prison and placed in isolation.
“That just shows you how serious his condition is,” she said. “He’s in isolation. We have no idea what his health is like right now. We can only assume that it’s getting worse and worse.”
In the week since the family heard about his ailing health, Amal organized nine different protests to raise awareness about their dire situation, including one outside 24 Sussex. Hundreds of supporters gathered in Ontario cities, including Ottawa, demanding the federal government secure his release and bring Albaz to Canada for medical treatment.
Still, the response from the government has been almost non-existent, she said.
“We’ve seen no commitment whatsoever,” she said. “We will not stop until we see that commitment.”
When asked about Albaz’s case, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on June 16 that he takes “very seriously the health and safety of Canadians detained abroad” and that his government will “continue to do everything we can to ensure that they are properly treated and, eventually, if possible, brought home.”
Back in February, Trudeau raised the case with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during a visit to the African Union summit.
Amal says that’s far from enough. She wants action, not words.
“Canada continues to say this is a top priority, but the prime minister didn’t even mention my father by name,” she said. “There’s no indication that the prime minister is owning this… It’s completely infuriating.”
Nearly 500 days in, the reason for Albaz’s imprisonment is still unknown. He is a Canadian citizen and was travelling on his Canadian passport at the time.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The sheer length of his detention is a clear indication that it’s arbitrary, said Justin Mohammed, a human rights law and policy campaigner with Amnesty International.
Egyptian law allows detainees to be held for 15 days, renewable for up to five months, without judicial review. After that, judges can order them held for 45 days, renewable for up to two years without trial.
Mohammed said those reviews have not happened.
“So here we have an individual who has no concept of when that detention will end,” he said. “That’s why we say that there is a fear that it’s indeterminate and could become indefinite.”
Human rights groups believe Egyptian authorities have used the COVID-19 pandemic to reclude detention renewal hearings, exacerbating an already unfair system. According to a Human Rights Watch report, detentions have been renewed automatically in recent months without transporting detainees to hearings or giving lawyers opportunities to enter pleas.
“There appears to be no continued judicial oversight over his detention,” Mohammed said.
“And the question as to what kind of ongoing consular support he’s receiving in light of his detention is a serious concern. We understand that there’s a particular context around COVID-19, but that doesn’t absolve the government of its responsibilities to advocate vigorously on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is in detention, particularly in these types of circumstances.”STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Global Affairs Canada said the government has been “closely monitoring” Albaz’s case and remains “actively engaged.”
In a statement to Global News, the agency noted that Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne “continues to raise this case at every opportunity with this counterpart, including earlier this month.” Citing the Privacy Act, it provided no further details.
COVID-19 complicates things, Mohammed acknowledged, but the government has “undertaken significant efforts to repatriate Canadians who found themselves affected by the pandemic abroad over the past few months.” This situation is just as serious, he said.
Canadian diplomats have been unable to visit Albaz in prison since March when the virus first began to proliferate, Amal said.
While Champagne has been responsive to her family, she doesn’t believe the government is doing enough. That feeling of neglect has been heightened in recent days, she said, given the attention surrounding the case of the two Canadians detained in China since 2018.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I feel offended that he knows the names of those in China and that he didn’t mention my father’s,” Amal said. “By all means, they deserve to come home as well, but I genuinely feel the Liberal government has failed my family. They haven’t been able to work with Egypt — a so-called ally, a friend. It really speaks to Canada’s place on the foreign table.”
Amal was hopeful the week of protests would bring about more action, but that doesn’t mean her fight to secure her father’s release will slow. Until the government commits, Amal said she will continue to stand on the streets and shout for his life.
“My father is sitting in the worst of conditions. We only have one demand of Trudeau and our country — do not bring him back in a box.”
It’s been 484 days since Canadian — Yasser Albaz — was detained in a prison in Egypt and — still — he’s never been charged. Now Albaz’s supporters are pleading once again for the federal government — to intervene. The most passionate of those pleas — for her father’s immediate release — coming from Albaz’s daughter Amal.
Canadians from across the country continue to protest in support of Oakville’s Yasser Ahmed Albaz, who remains in the Egyptian prison system. On Tuesday, his family demonstrated outside of the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) in Ottawa.
Yasser Ahmed Albaz is an engineer and business man who lives in Oakville with his family. The Egyptian government detained him at the Cairo airport last February, as he was preparing to return from a business trip.
His family was told early on that Yasser’s return was a top priority for the Trudeau government. It has now been 486 days since he was arrested and he has been in Egypt’s notorious Tora Prison the whole time.
Last Thursday, the Albaz family learned that their father was suffering from the symptoms of COVID-19. Another prisoner has apparently already died of the disease. Yasser was moved to a hospital then put into isolation within the prison.
Yasser’s wife at a protest Friday.
Yasser’s family is now participating in daily protests to convince the Federal government to push Egypt harder and secure his release. The first protest was last Friday outside of Oakville MP Anita Anand’s office. Since then, there have been ten protests, including Wednesday’s out the PMO.
Yasser’s family protests outside of the PMO in Ottawa.
“We have continued to get consular support and access and it’s something this government takes very seriously, the health and safety of Canadians abroad,” the Prime Minister said. “We will continue to do everything we can to assure they are properly treated and eventually, if possible, brought home.”
This response did not do much to satisfy the Albaz family, they point out that Trudeau did not even mention Yasser by name.
“We know that this will only get resolved if the Prime Minister takes ownership of the issue,” says Amal Albaz, Yasser’s daughter. “I expected much more from our Prime Minister. My response to him today is that what he offered Canadians is simply not enough. He didn’t even say my father’s name and to me someone without a name is someone who doesn’t exist.”
To me someone without a name is someone who doesn’t exist – Amal AlbazAdvertisement
Yasser Albaz is a man whose presence is felt in communities all over the country. Protests on his behalf have taken place in Oakville, London, Toronto, Mississauga, Waterloo and Ottawa. Furthermore, Amal says that she has received messages from across Canada.
“People are asking from city’s all over the country, I’m talking Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal. They’re all asking when they can protest,” she says. “People are just self-motivated because everyone is just terribly concerned for his life right now.”
Over the weekend, more than 400 people attended a protest outside of the office of MP Karina Gould in Burlington. Amal says that it will all continue until something is finally done to help her father.
“What I’m sure of is that these protests will not stop until we see real action from our Prime Minister. Take full responsibility, take ownership and secure my father’s immediate release so he can return home,” she says.
If people want to help, the family says the best way is to visit www.freeyasser.ca and read the ‘call to action’ section. This list includes pressuring MP’s to commit to helping Yasser, donating to the cause and signing petitions.
Yasser Albaz, a Canadian, has been imprisoned without charge in Egypt’s notorious Torah prison for 16 months. The Egyptian government has given no reason for his detention, and his continued imprisonment is a grave violation of his most fundamental human rights. This is without even considering that COVID-19 is spreading throughout the prison, and Yasser has been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms for the past several days.
The ICLMG is joining his family and thousands across Canada calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to take action at the highest level to bring Yasser Albaz home. You can take action at www.freeyasser.ca.
Below is the statement delivered by Tim McSorley, ICLMG National Coordinator, at the rally to bring Yasser Albaz home in front of the Prime Minister’s office on June 17, 2020.
“Thank you everyone for being here, and thank you to Amal, Safaa and the Albaz family for inviting me to join them here today.
My name is Tim McSorley, I’m the national coordinator with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. I’m here today on behalf of our 47 member organizations – faith based, labour, social justice, environmental groups – to say enough is enough, Yasser Albaz must come home to Canada, and Prime Minister Trudeau needs to make it happen.
Sixteen months ago, in February 2019, we were informed about Yasser’s imprisonment. We’ve added our voice ever since in order to denounce his indefinite, illegal imprisonment in Egypt and to demand that the Canadian government take all action necessary to bring him home. We had seen this before with other Canadians. We knew the terrible conditions of Torah prison, and we spoke out with others calling for the government to act. We hoped against hope that Yasser would be home soon.
It is unacceptable and shameful that 16 months later, Yasser remains in prison in Egypt.
And it’s important to be clear: he was arrested without charge. He has never been charged. His ongoing and indefinite imprisonment is illegal, violating his most fundamental human rights and in violation of international law.
It is the responsibility of the Canadian government to defend the rights of its citizens, especially those held in such dangerous and illegal conditions as Yasser is facing right now.
And this is all without even considering the new urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic and Yasser’s deteriorating health. So far, Canada has repatriated 40,000 Canadians back to our country. But Yasser remains in prison.
Prime Minister Trudeau has said that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian and stated that no Canadian should ever be subjected to cruel, inhumane punishment. And we should be clear: the conditions that Yasser is held in would be considered inhumane by anyone in the country.
Yasser deserves the same protections as everyone else. Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Champagne must act now.
Father’s Day is this weekend. I can’t imagine how I would feel if my father was imprisoned, his life under threat, in another country. Amal and her family shouldn’t have to spend another father’s day without their dad. Please go on their site, FreeYasser.ca, look them up on Facebook, and send your own message to Prime Minister Trudeau and to your MPs demanding that they bring Yasser home.”
Yasser Albaz’s is at risk of death from COVID-19 and he is calling on Justin Trudeau to save his life. After four days of protests, the case of Yasser Albaz has been covered widely by national media.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was questioned during his daily press conference as to whether he would make a personal appeal to President Sisi. The Prime Minister did not clearly reaffirm his personal commitment to the case of Yasser Albaz.
The family is disappointed with this response and renewed their demand to the Prime Minister to secure Yasser Albaz’s release.
Hundreds of Canadians have protested in front of the offices of 8 Cabinet Ministers over 4 days with a single demand: “The Prime Minister must secure Yasser’s release!” Each Minister and Parliamentary secretary was asked to share that family request with the Prime Minister. The family along with hundreds of Canadians will continue to demand the Prime Minister’s quick intervention and are protesting in front of the Prime Minister’s office tomorrow, June 17, in hopes that the Prime Minister can offer more assurance to the family about Canada’s commitment and approach to saving Yasser’s life.
For some days now, Yasser has been experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. Information received by the family confirms he is suffering from high fever, severe cough, extreme fatigue, tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing. Prison officials have placed him in isolation, raising greater concern.
Yasser has been arbitrarily detained for one year and four months. To this day, he has not been charged with any crime and remains in the worst prison in Egypt without any allegations as to why he is being detained. His human rights are being violated on every count and Canada has yet to bring him home. No Canadian should be treated like this.
Yasser’s life is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s responsibility.