Family members of a Canadian man detained in Egypt are calling on the federal government to step in and bring him home, citing concerns for his safety after they were informed that he is being held in a notorious prison without charge.
Amal Ahmed Albaz said her family was “torn apart” when her father was stopped at Cairo International Airport on Feb. 18 on his way back to Canada. She said he had his passport seized by Egyptian authorities and was taken in for questioning.
He managed to message the family from the airport about what was happening, telling him he loves them, but Albaz said the family hasn’t heard from him since.
“It was on Family Day, when families are supposed to come together, mine was torn apart. My dad was trying to come home,” she said.
She said her father, 51-year-old Yasser Ahmed Albaz, who lives in Oakville. Ont., has been in Egypt on a business trip for his engineering firm since December. Amal said her family still doesn’t know why he was detained and questioned.
Amal said the family immediately contact Global Affairs Canada, which provided a list of lawyers the family could contact to assist Yasser.
Amal said a lawyer was hired, and on Saturday night, he told the family that Yasser is being held in a prison in the Tora Prison complex in Cairo, but no charges have been laid and it is not known why he remains in custody.
The prison has been the subject of concern from various human rights groups where advocates and journalists have been detained and imprisoned in the last few years.
In November 2017, a top judicial agency in Egypt agreed to review the prison to assess whether it suitable to house inmates after allegations the prison was cutting off access to families and lawyers and not providing medical treatment to prisoners.
“My family and I are worried for his safety,” said Amal. “We can’t sleep, we can’t eat, we can’t do anything.”
A Global Affairs Canada spokesman said on Saturday that the government agency is aware that a Canadian citizen was detained in Egypt and consular services were provided, but he could not provide further information citing privacy concerns.
Amal said she is concerned that she has not been told where her father was immediately after he was detained or how long he was in the prison. She said the lawyer told her and her family that Yasser will be questioned by Egyptian authorities again on Tuesday, but she hopes the Canadian government will get involved before then.
“My father needs to come home,” she said. “He needs to come home today.”