Her dad may be dying in an Egyptian prison. She says Trudeau’s response is ‘infuriating’

Watch here: https://globalnews.ca/news/7084532/yasser-albaz-prison-covid/

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.”

Tora Prison in Cairo is notorious for its high security and dire conditions. Inmates are held in degrading environments and often refused medical treatment — something Amal believes is only worsening his health.

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.”

Amal Albaz speaks at a protest in Burlington on June 13 in front of the office of Karina Gould, minister of international development.
 Amal Albaz speaks at a protest in Burlington on June 13 in front of the office of Karina Gould, minister of international development. (Facebook/Free Yasser Albaz)

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.

(Facebook/Free Yasser Albaz)
 (Facebook/Free Yasser Albaz). (Facebook/Free Yasser Albaz)

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.”

— With files from the Canadian Press

Family of Canadian detained in Egypt speaks out

Watch here: https://globalnews.ca/video/7089106/family-of-canadian-detained-in-egypt-speaks-out

A big thanks to Global BC for sharing Yasser's story and giving his daughter Amal a platform to speak on the family's…

Posted by Free Yasser Albaz on Saturday, June 20, 2020

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.

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.”


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

Daughter writes poem to free Canadian man detained in Cairo prison without charge

Read here: https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/daughter-writes-poem-to-free-canadian-man-detained-in-cairo-prison-without-charge-1.4879745?fbclid=IwAR2GrnaZXmaItMkmFlGNJ9z6CG6M3MSPj5o_7NnMlbOEx0wbIfH0U7Nywjc

TORONTO — An Ontario poet is hoping that a poem she wrote will bring attention to the plight of her father, a Canadian man, who has been imprisoned for more than 400 days inside a Cairo jail notorious for its human violations.

Oakville, Ont. resident Amal Ahmed Albaz wrote the poem for her father, who spent his second birthday in a row at the Tora Prison despite having no charges or accusations laid against him.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz, a 52-year-old Canadian engineer, has been imprisoned at the jail since February 2019 after he was detained at the airport on his way home from a business trip.

“It was the second birthday that he spent in prison alone and that was very devastating for us,” Amal told CTV News Toronto. “My father has always been one of my biggest supporters as a writer and as a poet and he has an absolute love for poetry.”

Wife of Yasser Albaz,

Amal said she is hoping the poem will remind Canadians and the government of her father’s situation. The Albaz family are concerned at the lack of progress made on the case since the imprisonment. The global COVID-19 pandemic has also heightened their worries.

“We are very grateful that the Canadian government considers this to be top priority, but at the same time, we have not seen any results and the question is why?” Amal said.

“Clearly, the Canadian governments approach is lacking something and it needs to be fixed … It’s about time our government intensified the negotiations for my father’s release and just brings him home.

“He is Canada’s responsibility. Every Canadian has the right to safely return home and we need to see that happen.”

It’s not the first time a Canadian resident has been arbitrarily detained in Egypt. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian doctor, spent seven weeks in Tora Prison without charges. Mohamed Fahmy, an award-winning Canadian journalist, had also been imprisoned for over a year.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz

Several other countries, including Germany, France and Australia, have successfully brought their nationals home after pressuring the Egyptian government.

Canadian officials have said they have tried to discuss Yasser’s case with Egyptian authorities, but Amal says that no progress has been made.

“The Prime Minister raised this case directly with the Egyptian President on the margins of the 33rd African Union Summit,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told CTV News Toronto.

Hundreds of emails and thousands of letters and phone calls have been made to the government from Canadians urging immediate action, Amal said.

“It came as a complete shock to everyone and this why everyone is completely devastated,” Amal said. “The fact that everyone has mobilized for him really speaks to his character and the type of man that he is.”


Amal’s poem to her father illustrates some of the grief and loss she and her family have felt. They have had no communication with Yasser since he was detained.

“To this day, there absolutely no justification, no charges laid, not a single accusation as to why our innocent father is unjustly detained or how he’s robbed of his freedom completely unexplained,” she writes.

“Baba, how can I sleep in my warm bed when you’re sleeping on cold, concrete floor? How can I be in comfort when I know your entire body is sore?”

She writes that her father has missed his youngest daughter’s wedding, his son’s graduation and all his grandchildren’s milestones—events, she said, that are painful to get through without him.  

Family of Ontario man detained in Egypt pleads for help from Ottawa

Read here: https://globalnews.ca/video/6285334/family-of-ontario-man-detained-in-egypt-urges-action-from-ottawa-for-release

The family of a Canadian man who has been in a Cairo prison for the last 10 months wants Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who is in Egypt this week, to secure his release and bring him home.

“My father has been asking every single day what Canada is doing to get him out and bring him home,” his daughter, Amal Ahmed Albaz, said at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.

“We need more than just caring,” she said.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz, a 51-year-old engineer from Oakville, Ont., has been in a Cairo prison since February, when he was detained at the airport on his way home from a business trip. He is a dual citizen who was travelling on his Canadian passport.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Champagne, said the foreign affairs minister raised the case directly with his Egyptian counterpart Wednesday.

Champagne is in Aswan, Egypt, this week for an African development conference.

“We will continue to raise it at the highest levels of the Egyptian government and consular officials will remain in regular contact with local authorities,” Austen wrote in an email Wednesday. He said he could provide no further details for privacy reasons.

Amal Ahmed Albaz said her family still does not know why her father was detained and questioned and that he has not been charged.

“My father has done absolutely nothing wrong. He has suffered immensely,” she said.

“He needs medical help and he needs to be reunited with our family.”

Justin Mohammed, the human rights law and policy campaigner at Amnesty International, also urged the federal government to take stronger action.

“Ongoing detention without charge is unacceptable and the minister must ensure that his Egyptian counterparts put an immediate end to the human rights abuses that Yasser is suffering,” he said at the news conference Wednesday.

The family has been told by his lawyer that Yasser Ahmed Albaz is being held in the Tora Prison complex in Cairo, which has been the subject of concern by various human rights groups in recent years.

His daughter said he immigrated to Canada from Egypt more than 20 years ago and that the Egyptian government is aware that he is Canadian.

“He’s done absolutely nothing wrong. He has no political affiliation whatsoever,” she said. “He’s not active politically, so this came as a complete shock to our family when it happened and to this day we are very concerned and we’re very confused.”

His wife, Safaa Eleshmawy, said the role that her husband played in the community is one of the reasons he has so much support.

“He dedicated his life to help others,” she said.

She said he never turned his back when he saw someone in need.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“A country should be proud of such a citizen and not leave him behind.”

Family of Canadian man detained in Egypt plead for help

The family of Amal Ahmed Albaz, a Canadian man detained in a notorious Egyptian prison, are pleading with the Canadian government to help them bring him home. Faiza Amin with the latest on the diplomatic efforts to help the Oakville resident.

Family of Canadian man detained in Egypt plead for help

The family of Amal Ahmed Albaz, a Canadian man detained in a notorious Egyptian prison, are pleading with the Canadian government to help them bring him home. Faiza Amin with the latest on the diplomatic efforts to help the Oakville resident.

Posted by CityNews Toronto on Thursday, March 7, 2019