Background of Situation
Yasser Albaz is a Canadian citizen who resides with his family in Oakville, Ontario. He is a loving father, grandfather, husband, and a prominent and active community leader. Yasser has been in Canada for two decades, serving the community throughout. Yasser is a businessman who founded and operates an engineering company in Oakville.
On December 21st, 2018, Yasser traveled to Egypt for a two-month business trip. He entered Egypt with his Canadian passport without incident. He was scheduled to leave Cairo on Monday, February 18, but upon arrival at Cairo International Airport, passport control authorities confiscated his Canadian passport, and took him aside for questioning. After a few hours, Yasser disappeared. For several days, no one knew where Yasser was or if he was even alive. He was unaccounted for during this time. There was no arrest warrant for Yasser. According to International Law, he was subjected to illegal enforced disappearance.
Yasser’s family immediately reported the case to Global Affairs Canada’s emergency line. When the Canadian embassy asked the Egyptian Government about Yasser, they denied any knowledge of him for several days. At the end of the week, he appeared at a prosecutor’s office for general questioning and was transported to Torah Prison– notorious for its human rights violations.
Yasser has been there for over 16 months in Torah Prison with medical concerns. He remains without charge and continues to receive 45-day extensions to his arbitrary detention. There isn’t a shred of evidence against Yasser and the Egyptians haven’t even provided the lawyers with any reasons for his detention.
Within the first two weeks of his detention, Yasser was taken for general questioning. The lawyer Yasser’s family hired in Egypt said the questioning was very general without any indication of why they’re holding him. Now, with each renewal, he isn’t even questioned. It’s just a routine procedure for extending his detention indefinitely.
Reasons for His Detention
There isn’t any speculation on why the Egyptian authorities have detained Yasser or why they are still holding him. Yasser has no affiliation to any groups in Egypt, nor is he politically active. He is not outspoken against the Egyptian government in any way. He was purely on a business trip and was supposed to land in Canada on February 19, 2019.
For two decades, since they’ve been in Canada, Yasser and his family have always travelled back and forth to Egypt without any concern. They were there the summer before his detention, celebrating his youngest daughter’s engagement.
Family Visit and Conditions
Yasser’s brother has been able to regularly visit him and provides him with some very basic necessities. Yasser is complaining of severe back pain from being forced to sleep on the cold, hard concrete floor, as any form of mattress is denied. Recently, even his pillow was taken away. He has developed some medical concerns that require a doctor’s attention. He is 51 years old. He is in a crowded cell 8 by 3 feet with 17 other prisoners with only one washroom. He faces brutal and unhygienic conditions. No human, no Canadian, should be treated like this. Especially when they’re innocent.
To say Yasser’s family is beyond broken would be an understatement. Maryam, his youngest daughter, walked down the aisle without her father in August. It was a devastating wedding to say the least. His son, Ammar, attended his grade 8 graduation without his father by his side. His wife, Safaa, is forced to work even more to make ends meet and has to manage life without her other half. Her health is deteriorating from all the stress and strain. She doesn’t know how long she can stay standing.
Yasser’s youngest grandson is turning one year old. He left when he was just one month old. Hamza does not know his grandpa and Yasser will never get that year back.
The days go by but his family’s lives are all on hold. They’ve never been away from Yasser for this long. They haven’t heard his voice since February. They need this nightmare to end.
What has Canada done?
Yasser and his family are grateful for the work the Canadian government has done, and the consular support he receives in Cairo, but this alone will not bring him home. His freedom is only going to come when the Canadian government decides that this is a priority. We need Minister Champagne to fly to Egypt, put Yasser on a plane, and bring him home.
Support from Canadians
Within the first week, over 5000 emails were sent to various Members of Parliament around the country, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland. Hundreds of concerned Canadians reached out to Global Affairs and the Minister’s office with phone calls expressing Canada’s obligation towards Yasser to bring him home. A petition has also been launched by Yasser’s family and has garnered over 20,000 signatures within a week and continues to grow daily. (www.change.org/FreeYasser)
Major news outlets have covered Yasser’s story. There are thousands of Canadians who are concerned about Yasser’s safety, health and return home. Yasser has been detained without cause or justification since February 2019. Enough time has passed. Canada needs to do everything in its power, demand for his release and bring this innocent Canadian citizen back home.