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.”