Protestors gathering to demand Canadian government help free Oakville man from Egyptian prison

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Demonstrators will be gathering in front of Mississauga MP Iqra Khalid’s office to demand that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intervene and secure the release of Yasser Albaz, a Canadian citizen, from an Egyptian prison.

The protest, scheduled to kick off at 4:00 pm on June 15, will take place at 3184 Ridgeway Drive. 

The protest has been organized by Amal Albaz and Safaa Elashmawy, Yasser’s daughter and wife. In a news release, organizers said 400 to 500 supporters are expected. 

Today’s protest will be the fourth one in as many days. 

Amal Albaz says her 52-year-old father has been imprisoned in Cairo for more than a year and is at risk of succumbing to COVID-19 unless the government can win his freedom.

Yasser Albaz, an engineer from Oakville, has been in a Cairo prison since February 2019, when he was detained at the airport on his way home from a business trip. Albaz is a dual citizen who was travelling on his Canadian passport.

His daughter says his family still does not know why he was detained and questioned and that he has not been charged. She says his situation has grown more dire in recent days because he has developed COVID-19 symptoms and a fellow 42-year-old prisoner has died from the disease.

According to a news release, Yasser was transferred by Egyptian authorities to a hospital and then returned to prison and placed in isolation. Amal Albaz says this means that there is a greater chance that he might die in prison if he is not moved to a Canadian hospital.

The news release says the family has received information that he is suffering from a severe cough, extreme fatigue, tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing.

“Not only is Yasser in horribly unhygienic conditions with limited ventilation and almost non-existing medical care, he is in his fifties, and has pre-existing medical conditions which increase his risk and need for immediate medical care,” the news release reads. 

“I have been pressing on our MP Anita Anand and Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne that COVID-19 is a real risk and we no longer can wait for soft diplomacy to take its course. If Egypt is a friend, then they would not treat a Canadian national this way. If Minister Anand needs to go to Egypt, then this is the time to do so. It is now a matter of life and death,” Amal Albaz said in a statement.   

According to the family, two inmates in the same prison wing as Yasser died of COVID-19 and “medical negligence.” 

The family says there have been reports of COVID-19 in Tora Prison for weeks now and that there is no way for the prisoners to protect themselves from the virus, as cells are overcrowded, one washroom is shared, and physical distancing is impossible.

“Yasser’s life is Canada’s responsibility,” the release reads.