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Protestors gathering to demand Canadian government help free Oakville man from Egyptian prison

Read here : https://www.inhalton.com/protestors-gathering-to-demand-canadian-government-help-free-oakville-man-from-egyptian-prison

Demonstrators will be gathering in front of Mississauga MP Iqra Khalid’s office to demand that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intervene and secure the release of Yasser Albaz, a Canadian citizen, from an Egyptian prison.

The protest, scheduled to kick off at 4:00 pm on June 15, will take place at 3184 Ridgeway Drive. 

The protest has been organized by Amal Albaz and Safaa Elashmawy, Yasser’s daughter and wife. In a news release, organizers said 400 to 500 supporters are expected. 

Today’s protest will be the fourth one in as many days. 

Amal Albaz says her 52-year-old father has been imprisoned in Cairo for more than a year and is at risk of succumbing to COVID-19 unless the government can win his freedom.

Yasser Albaz, an engineer from Oakville, has been in a Cairo prison since February 2019, when he was detained at the airport on his way home from a business trip. Albaz is a dual citizen who was travelling on his Canadian passport.

His daughter says his family still does not know why he was detained and questioned and that he has not been charged. She says his situation has grown more dire in recent days because he has developed COVID-19 symptoms and a fellow 42-year-old prisoner has died from the disease.

According to a news release, Yasser was transferred by Egyptian authorities to a hospital and then returned to prison and placed in isolation. Amal Albaz says this means that there is a greater chance that he might die in prison if he is not moved to a Canadian hospital.

The news release says the family has received information that he is suffering from a severe cough, extreme fatigue, tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing.

“Not only is Yasser in horribly unhygienic conditions with limited ventilation and almost non-existing medical care, he is in his fifties, and has pre-existing medical conditions which increase his risk and need for immediate medical care,” the news release reads. 

“I have been pressing on our MP Anita Anand and Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne that COVID-19 is a real risk and we no longer can wait for soft diplomacy to take its course. If Egypt is a friend, then they would not treat a Canadian national this way. If Minister Anand needs to go to Egypt, then this is the time to do so. It is now a matter of life and death,” Amal Albaz said in a statement.   

According to the family, two inmates in the same prison wing as Yasser died of COVID-19 and “medical negligence.” 

The family says there have been reports of COVID-19 in Tora Prison for weeks now and that there is no way for the prisoners to protect themselves from the virus, as cells are overcrowded, one washroom is shared, and physical distancing is impossible.

“Yasser’s life is Canada’s responsibility,” the release reads. 

Family of man held in Egypt’s Tora prison fear he has COVID-19 and plead with Trudeau for his return

Read more: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/06/14/family-of-man-held-in-egypts-tora-prison-fear-he-has-covid-19-and-plead-with-trudeau-for-his-return.html

Yasser Albaz should have returned home to Oakville from a business trip to Egypt on Family Day in 2019.

Instead, he was detained without cause at a Cairo airport and transferred to Egypt’s grim Tora prison, where he has remained for 16 months. And now, his family fears he may have COVID-19.

To date, there have been no formal charges laid against Yasser, his daughter Amal said Sunday.

“As soon as he went to the airport, his passports were confiscated,” she said, noting that her father carries both Egyptian and Canadian passports. He was travelling on a Canadian passport at the time of his detention. “There was no warrant, nothing at all for his arrest.”

Alongside supporters, the family protested for three days across Ontario this weekend, rallying at the offices of seven separate MPs in Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, London and Waterloo.

Amal, who worked for the Star in 2015, said her family is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to secure the release of her father and have him transferred immediately to a Canadian hospital for treatment.

“The only medical treatment he should be receiving is here in Canada,” Amal said.

Global Affairs Canada is “closely monitoring” the situation and providing consular services to the family, spokesperson Angela Savard told the Star.

“The Prime Minister raised this case directly with the Egyptian President on the margins of the 33rd African Union Summit. Minister Champagne continues to raise this case at every opportunity with his counterpart, including earlier this week,” Savard said.

“Canada keeps telling us that this is a priority for them and that this case is very important. And, you know, as much as I’d love to believe that, we need to see results,” Amal said. “We need to see an outcome — and that outcome is having my father home here with us.”

Amal said she’s terrified that she won’t see her father alive again. “I am terrified for my father’s life. We all are. And we just don’t have the time (to wait) anymore,” she said.

On Thursday, the family learned that Yasser has developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and was briefly taken to hospital.

“We’ve warned the (Canadian) government of this risk — of the fact that should there be an outbreak in Tora prison, it would be absolutely uncontrollable and it could cost people their lives,” Amal added. “He is very sick and he is writing his will to be passed to us. That’s how serious it is,” she said. Her father, in his 50s, has underlying health conditions which increase his risk.

The family has learned of two other prisoners that have died as a result of the virus last week.

The arrest came as a shock. The family has roots in Egypt and has travelled back and forth between Egypt and Canada without incident many times, Amal said. “My father is not political whatsoever. He’s just a businessman.”

Tora is infamous for it’s awful conditions. Detainees sleep on concrete, and basic hygienic necessities are in short supply, if provided at all.

“The conditions in there are absolutely horrible,” Amal said. “You’re talking no ventilation … cramped in a cell, sharing a hole in the ground as a washroom, sleeping on a concrete floor — completely unsanitary conditions.”

Londoners rally in support of innocent Oakville man detained in Egyptian jail for 482 days

Read here: https://london.ctvnews.ca/londoners-rally-in-support-of-innocent-oakville-man-detained-in-egyptian-jail-for-482-days-1.4983825

LONDON, ONT. — The chants of ‘Free, Free Yasser’ ring out in West London Ont. as members of the local Muslim community hold up signs of support.

The group of nearly 50 people stood in front of MP Kate Young’s office, and called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to demand the release of Canadian engineer Yasser Albaz.

“Amal (Yasser’s daughter) is a dear friend of ours,” says Sarrah Lawendy, who organized the local protest. 

“Her father was an integral part of the Muslim community, and we are here to show our support.”

The 52-year-old Albaz has been in Tora Prison in Cairo Egypt for the last 482 days, after being detained on his way home from a business trip. Albaz is a dual citizen who was travelling with his Canadian passport. 

“He’s been there 16 months with no charges, accusations, no allegations,” says Amal Ahmed Albaz, Yasser’s daughter. 

“But the issue is now it’s a matter of life and death. My father is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. These symptoms are one thing to have, but it’s a another thing inside Tora Prison, the worst prison in all of Egypt.”

Tora Prison is the same jail where London Ont. Dr. Tarek Loubani was held for more than 7 weeks in 2013, after being arrested and detained. Loubani was later released even though Egyptian authorities were considering a number of intended charges against him including murder and “intention to kill,” which he and fellow prisoner John Greyson denied. 

Amal Albaz says her father was recently taken to hospital in Cairo, but has since returned to jail and placed in isolation. 

Protests were held Sunday in London, and in Mississauga. They are the latest in a growing surge of rallies held by family, friends and advocates across the country. 

“We have people from Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Waterloo, London and in the GTA,” says Amal Albaz. 

“Everyone feels Liberal government has failed our family and our community and all of Canada really, for not taking serious action.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has brought up Yasser Albaz’s case back in a February meeting with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Global Affairs Canada said in a statement on Thursday night. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has also raised the case with his Egyptian counterpart. 

“If we can’t have MP’s and Prime Minister protect our rights, who is going to protect them internationally,” says Lawendy. 

Lawendy says it breaks her heart to know that her friend’s father hasn’t been able to see his children, and even new born grandchildren. 

Amal is asking Trudeau to jump on a plane himself and bring her father home. 

“He’s been pleading with embassy for months…’Please don’t bring me back in a box’, and that line could not be any more true right now,” says Amal Albaz. 

“These protests will not stop until Trudeau puts him on a plane before it’s too late.”

‘BRING MY DAD BACK ALIVE’: Daughter of Canadian detainee in Egypt protests at Burlington MP office

Read here: https://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/10022467–bring-my-dad-back-alive-daughter-of-canadian-detainee-in-egypt-protests-at-burlington-mp-office/


Amal Albaz the daughter of Canadian citizen Yasser Albaz who has been detained in an Egyptian prison for over a year, is joined by her mother Safaa Elashmawy and her sister Maryam and a few hundred supporters for a protest outside of Burlington MP Karina Gould constituency office. – Graham Paine/Torstar

Egyptian Prisoner Protest
Burlington MP Karina Gould addresses the crowd of approximately 80 protesters outside her constituency office, that the federal government is doing everything to garner the release of Canadian citizen Yasser Albaz who has been detained in an Egyptian prison for over a year. Listening to her speak is Yasser Albaz daughter Amal Albaz, his wife Safaa Elashmawy and his other daughter Maryam. – Graham Paine/Torstar
Egyptian Prisoner Protest
A protester carries a sign in support of Canadian citizen Yasser Albaz who has been detained in an Egyptian prison for over a year, as approximately 80 protesters including members of his family protested outside of Burlington MP Karina Gould constituency office. – Graham Paine/Torstar
Egyptian Prisoner Protest
Burlington MP Karina Gould listens as the family (L-R) Yasser Albaz daughter Amal Albaz, his wife Safaa Elashmawy and his other daughter Maryam, of Canadian citizen Yasser Albaz who has been detained in an Egyptian prison for over a year look for the Prime Minister to do more to garner his release. – Graham Paine/Torstar

Burlington was the latest stop in the ongoing campaign to bring an ill Canadian detained in Egypt home.

At the forefront of these efforts is Amal Albaz — daughter of Yasser Albaz — who was joined by her mother Safaa Elashmawy, sister Maryam and roughly 80 supporters for a protest outside MP Karina Gould’s Guelph Line constituency office Saturday afternoon.

The MP spoke with Amal and her family, who’ve visited numerous communities in recent months in a desperate plea to have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau push for Yasser’s release.

His family says he’s been experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms and due to pre-existing medical conditions is in an especially vulnerable state — requiring immediate medical care.

OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

Yasser's Daughter, Amal Albaz, Reads an Open Letter to the PM in front of his office in Ottawa on June 17, 2020, where…

Posted by Free Yasser Albaz on Friday, June 19, 2020

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

June 13, 2020

Dear Prime Minister,

It has been 481 days and quite simply, your government has failed my family and many Canadians who have emailed and called members of parliament across the country. It has been 16 months since my father, a loving husband, father, grandfather, an a-political businessman, and a proud Canadian citizen, has been unjustly detained in Egypt and your government has not done enough to bring him home. We can no longer be patient, Prime Minister Trudeau. We can no longer be patient because this is a matter of life and death for my dear father.

I had faith in our government. I trusted Members of Parliament when they told me his case was a top priority to Canada and that they will bring him home soon.

How can I believe that Canada has not been able to improve his horrific conditions, let alone secure his release since February 2019?

How can I remain silent while he is on the brink of death? How can I remain silent when other nations have been able to bring home their citizens in short weeks?

It just doesn’t add up.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, I have warned our government about the inevitable risk my father faces should COVID break out in Egyptian prisons that have poor hygienic conditions and almost non-existing medical care. That risk is now a reality.

He can die, Mr. Trudeau. He can die just as other prisoners have in his prison due to the inexplicable conditions and medical negligence.

My father is Canada’s responsibility. My father is your responsibility, Prime Minister Trudeau.

You have gone to great lengths providing relief for families amidst the pandemic, and repatriating Canadians all around the world. So what about my father? A Canadian who’s human rights have been violated on every count. A Canadian who’s done absolutely nothing wrong. It is on you, Mr. Trudeau. This Canadian’s life is on you.

I can’t even imagine that I may not hear my father’s voice again– that I may not see him again.

I am not calling for you to just call the President of Egypt. I am calling for you to bring a resolution to our ordeal and secure his release and safe return home for treatment in a Canadian hospital. I am calling on you to promise my family, my community and fellow Canadians that you are up to the responsibility.

We need you to give it your all. We need you to bring my father home.

A concerned daughter,

Amal Albaz

Community protests to bring Canadian home from Egypt

Read here: https://oakvillenews.org/community-protests-to-bring-canadian-home-from-egypt/

Yasser Ahmed Albaz has been illegally detained in Egypt for a year and half. He began developing COVID-19 symptoms in prison on Thursday. Since then, his family and community have been protesting for decisive action by the Canadian government.

Yasser Albaz travelled to Egypt for business in December 2018. He is a dual citizen and a well-known member of the Oakville community. He planned to return to Canada by Family Day 2019 but was detained at the airport without any explanation or warrant. Since then, his family has worked tirelessly to get him back by working with the Canadian government.

Yasser Albaz is detained in Egypt.

Protests on Friday outside the downtown office of Liberal MP Anita Anand.

“He disappeared for several days and nobody knew where he was. He was unaccounted for,” says his daughter Amal Albaz. “They just made him disappear. If we are talking about Human Rights Laws, to this day, he hasn’t been charged with anything. The Egyptians have never shared any information as to why they’re holding him. It’s just arbitrary detention.”

Yasser Albaz now sits in Tora Prison, one of the most infamous institutions in all of Egypt. For the past year and a half, his family has only been able to hear from him through a relative who lives in Egypt.

“He was able to visit him in prison every couple of weeks or so,” Amal says. “But since COVID-19 began in February and March, no one has been able to visit or see him.”

The Albaz family hadn’t heard from Yasser for months when they found out that he had begun suffering from the symptoms of COVID-19.

“Somehow he got that message out and let us know that he was suffering. He says that he is writing his will because he feels that this it it,” Amal says.

This has left Amal and the rest of the family angry and frustrated. Not only at Yasser’s imprisonment or the illness he’s developed but with their government for allowing everything to reach this point.

The conditions inside Tora Prison are bad under normal circumstances. The cells are overcrowded, there is little sanitation or access to medical care. During a pandemic, staying there could be a death sentence.

Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet have made some efforts to arrange for Yasser’s return. The Prime Minister mentioned the case once during a discussion with the Egyptian President. Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne did the same. Nothing has worked. Amal believes that the time for ‘soft diplomacy’ is over now though.

“The government says that this case is a top priority, but mentioning it on a phone call just isn’t enough. That is not going to guarantee my father’s freedom,” Amal says. “We are able to reach out but unfortunately there have just been no updates. This case has not changed since it’s beginning. Just mentioning the case on a phone call isn’t enough. It’s not going to guarantee anyone’s freedom. There needs to be a demand for my father’s release. He is there against international law and his human rights are being violated on every count.”

Yasser Albaz is detained in Egypt.

For the past year and a half, the Albaz family has been trying to work with the government.

“People have been wanting to protest for so long and, you know, my family has been saying: let’s be patient, trust the government, they’re working on something,” Amal says.

After learning of their father’s illness, they increased the pressure. On Friday, there were protests outside the offices of prominent Liberal politicians in Mississauga and Toronto. There was one in Oakville, outside the office of MP Anita Anand. Minister Anand was not present but members of her staff came out to talk to the protesters.

“People are just burning with anger and frustration. My father is well known in the community. His impact was always obvious and everyone feels his loss right now. Everyone’s angry, everyone’s frustrated, and that’s what drives the protests,” Amal says.Advertisement

The protests were organized primarily over social media. The Albaz family has been reaching out to other community members through Facebook and Twitter. Their change.org petition, addressed to Justin Trudeau, has received over 49,000 signatures.

Dozens showed up in Oakville. More demonstrations are planned for tomorrow.

“I think today was great, I hope our government hears us and understands the pain that we’re going through,” Amal says. “The idea that we might never hear his voice again or see his face again, that is just something no one could stand.”

Yasser Albaz is detained in Egypt.

Signs held at the protest said many different things. They all translated into one demand though: decisive action from the federal government.

“There’s never been really any indication that the Canadian government is actually taking this seriously,” Amal says. “I would love to believe they’re statements, but at the end of the day, it’s been a year and a half and there have been no results. How can you tell me this case is a top priority when he is about to die in the worst prison in Egypt? It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The protests for Yasser Ahmed Albaz’s release on Saturday will be held in Burlington and Waterloo.

“Every Canadian has a right to return home,” Amal says. “My father never did anything wrong and the Canadian government certainly hasn’t done enough.”

Important Contact Information

Bring Yasser Home

The Canadian Council of Imams Calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau To Intervene and Bring Canadian Citizen Yasser Albaz Home.

The Canadian Council of Imams is extremely concerned about the recent news of Canadian citizen Yasser Albaz suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.

It has been nearly a year and a half since Yasser Albaz disappeared in Cairo airport and then subsequently held arbitrarily by Egyptian authorities without charge. Since his detention, the Canadian government has been unsuccessful in securing his release, let alone improve his conditions.

It is the responsibility of our Canadian government to ensure the safe return of Yasser Albaz to his family.

We call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene and bring Yasser Albaz home for medical assistance in a Canadian hospital.

We pray for his health and his reunification with his loved ones.

Canadian Council of Imams

Jun 13th 2020

Canadian detainee in Egypt is at high risk from Covid-19

Read here: https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/canadian-detainee-in-egypt-is-at-high-risk-from-covid-19-family-37226

Imprisoned in the notorious Tora prison, Yasser Albaz’s family says he might be suffering from the coronavirus.

The family of a Canadian citizen arbitrarily held in Egypt’s infamous Tora prison for more than a year, fear that he’s now suffering from the potentially deadly coronavirus. 

Yasser Albaz, 52, a businessman, was detained in Cairo in February 2019, but never formally charged. He’s an Egyptian who moved his family to Canada about 20 years ago but frequently travelled to his native land. 

His daughter, Amal Albaz, has mounted an international effort in order to bring attention to his plight. She has given multiple interviews, and has kept up the pressure on various Canadian officials in the hope she may secure her father’s release.  

“We have been told that another prisoner has died in my father’s wing from Covid-19 and that some guards were infected and spread it in the prison from our source,” Amal told TRT World

“He is held in a cell with so many inmates and one shared toilet. It has been very difficult for him”. 

Egypt’s Tora prison is known for its inhumane conditions. The torture of detainees occurs frequently there and is now a well-documented crime, according to the Human Rights Watch. 

The prison was once again in the news last month when 24-year-old filmmaker, Shady Habash, died there. Habash’s crime was that he had directed a music video for a song that was critical of Sisi. 

“For some days now, Yasser has been experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. Information received by the family confirms he is suffering from severe cough, extreme fatigue, tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing,” his family said in a statement.  

“Not only is Yasser in horribly unhygienic conditions with limited ventilation and almost non-existing medical care, he is in his fifties, and has pre-existing medical conditions which increase his risk and need for immediate medical care.” 

Unnatural alliance 

The Egyptian government is accused of arbitrarily arresting thousands of political and civil rights activists on fabricated charges.

While American and European lawmakers have voiced concerns over human rights violations, their governments continue to back Sisi, a former military commander who came to power in a coup in 2013. 

The Egyptian military has used brutal force to stifle any sort of dissent – often with the indirect backing of its western allies. 

Whether it is the $15 billion arms deal that was signed with France in 2018, the promise to keep the refugees away from the European borders or working with Italy’s ENI on the gas field in the eastern Mediterranean, Sisi has found ways to avoid criticism. 

This is despite the public pressure within Europe to take Sisi to task over human rights violations. 

More recently, hundreds of people have protested in Italy for the release of Patrick Zaki, 27, a student of the University of Bologna and activist of an Egyptian NGO. 

Zaki was arrested earlier this year, and despite demonstrations, he continues to remain in prison. His supporters fear that he may suffer the same fate as Giulio Regeni, an Italian student who was abducted in Cairo in 2016 and later killed – his murder blamed on the security forces. 

At the same time, the Italian government is looking to sell frigates and warplanes to Egypt in a multibillion dollar deal

The EU’s commitment to human rights, especially its staunch opposition to capital punishment, came under the spotlight last year when its senior leadership, attended the EU-Arab League summit in Sharm el Sheikh. The visit took place days after Egypt executed 15 men following sham trials. 

“The alarmist political narrative (of migration) that has spread through the EU member states in recent years – especially those bordering the Mediterranean – has increased citizens’ concerns about the issue exponentially,” Pier Antonio Panzeri, an Italian politician and the then-member of the European Parliament, told TRT World at the time. 

“For this reason, many countries have preferred to close their eyes to the human rights situation, provided that Egypt takes responsibility for migrants from other African countries, thus acting as a barrier.

By carrying out a ruthless military operation against militants in the Sinai Peninsula, Cairo’s establishment has tried to convince the world that it’s hard on terrorism.

For people like Yasser Albaz who have lingered on in an Egyptian prison for months, the best hope is for foreign governments to keep up the pressure on Cairo to do the right thing and release detainees. 

As Amal says: “Yasser’s life is Canada’s responsibility.”