‘Horror-struck’ family calls for release of Canadian detained in Egypt

Read here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/horror-struck-family-calls-for-release-of-canadian-detained-in-egypt-1.5031404

Yasser Ahmed Albaz, left, pictured with his wife, Safaa Elashmawy. He was taken from the Cairo airport and is in Egyptian custody. (Amal Ahmed Albaz/Suppled)

The family of a Canadian man detained in Egypt is calling for the highest level of intervention from the Canadian government after he disappeared from the Cairo airport on Monday.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz, 51, has been in Egypt for business since December. When he attempted to board his flight home to Oakville, Ont., this week, his family says his passport was confiscated and an officer later told him his name had been flagged for investigation. 

He texted his family to tell them he loved them.

A text message to a friend from Albaz later that night said state security was arresting him. That was the last anyone had heard from him.

“The biggest concern for us is his safety,” his daughter Amal Ahmed Albaz told CBC News on Saturday. “Our family was horror-struck.”

The family reported his disappearance to Global Affairs immediately. 

The government department said in a statement they were aware of the detention of a Canadian citizen, but for privacy reasons spokesperson Richard Walker said no other information could be disclosed. Consular services are being provided to the family. 

Amal said the government told them earlier this week that Canadian officials in Egypt are in contact with the local government to get answers. She was told originally the state denied they were holding Albaz, but later admitted he’s in custody and would not say where or provide other information. 

Late Saturday night, Global Affairs notified the family that Albaz was being questioned at the State Security Prosecutor’s office. He has so far not been charged with any crimes, but Amal said her father’s lawyer learned Albaz will be held for more questioning on Tuesday. He was then transported to Tora prison, just south of Cairo.

“An injustice has been done to my father,” she said. “We need him home now.”

The Albaz family is originally from Egypt and has been living as citizens in Canada for almost two decades. Business and vacations take them back and forth between the two countries regularly.

Amal says her father isn’t political — he’s an engineer by profession — and she can think of no reason for his detention.

She added she appreciates the government’s efforts so far, but as the days wear on, it’s time to step up the pressure on the Egyptian government for more information. 

The family is asking Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to step in and call for his release. Freeland has previously spoken out about detentions of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, and about the two Canadian men who remain in custody in China.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian groups have criticized the north African nation for arbitrary detentions and abuse of detainees. 

“The authorities used torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance against hundreds of people, and dozens were extrajudicially executed with impunity,” Amnesty’s 2018 report on the country warns. 

That’s what worries Amal. 

“There is great concern around the condition of his detention and if he is being treated according to international human rights laws.”