Londoners rally in support of innocent Oakville man detained in Egyptian jail for 482 days

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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.”