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Yasser Ahmed Albaz’s Detention In Notorious Egyptian Prison Renewed Yet Again

Read here: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/yasser-ahmed-albaz-egypt_ca_5cd5958ae4b07bc72979737b

Yasser Ahmed Albaz's daughter Amal says his detention in Egypt's notorious Tora prison has been renewed...
Yasser Ahmed Albaz’s daughter Amal says his detention in Egypt’s notorious Tora prison has been renewed yet again. He has not been charged.

The daughter of a Canadian man who has been languishing in a brutal Egyptian prison for more than two months says his detention has been renewed yet again.

Amal Ahmed Albaz told HuffPost Canada her father Yasser still hasn’t been charged with anything or told why he is being detained.

“A part of us is still in shock and can’t wrap our heads around what’s happening,” Albaz said.

The Oakville, Ont. family’s nightmare began on Feb. 18 — Family Day in their province — when he was taken in for questioning by authorities at the Cairo airport while waiting to catch a flight back to Toronto. After sending them a text message to say he loved them, Yasser vanished.

Amal Ahmed Albaz, centre, is photographed with her sister Maryam and father
Amal Ahmed Albaz, centre, is photographed with her sister Maryam and father Yasser.

The family had no idea where he was for almost a week. Their confusion turned to abject horror when a lawyer in Cairo told them Yasser was questioned and taken to Tora prison, a notorious institution that has been accused of human rights violations.

Albaz said that since then, Yasser has been receiving extensions on his detention from the state prosecutor without being charged. The most recent renewal was on April 15.

“They just go [to the prosecutor], they just renew his extension and he leaves. It’s very routine,” she said.

“The Canadian government has no knowledge of anything and even our lawyer on the ground has no knowledge of anything.”

Father in ‘psychological shock’

Albaz said her father’s situation is only getting worse. He is still sleeping on concrete floors in a cramped cell and eating unclean food.

Her uncle in Egypt has been allowed to visit Yasser. He tells them he is physically unharmed but appears to be in “psychological shock.”

“He’s trying to tell us he’s strong, that he’s fine, but I know he’s just telling that my uncle for our sake, to give us some peace and solace.”

Albaz said her father’s absence has hit the family hard. She said she is reminded of how long he’s been away just by looking at how much her three-month-old son has grown since

She said her mother did not leave the house for the first month.

“They’ve been married for 26 years. Her other half is literally gone.”

Albaz’s 13-year-old brother takes his dad’s watch to school.

“My mom says ‘this is huge on you, why are you taking it?’ He just responded ‘I want a piece of my dad with me.'”

And Albaz’s sister, who is getting married in almost two months, says she is “devastated” and afraid she’ll have to cancel the wedding if her father is not released in time.

“The moment we start to envision or picture what he’s doing, what he’s like in there, we break apart. So we try to not think of all the little details and just hope he’s OK,” Albaz said.

Yasser and his wife Safaa are pictured with their youngest
Yasser and his wife Safaa are pictured with their youngest grandson.

Albaz said Canadian consular officials have contacted Yasser to provide support. She also said that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland reached out in person to express her concern and support to the family.

“We just hope that she will take personal action on this case. She’s kind of our only hope in this situation,” she said.

The family is worried that fabricated charges will be laid in Yasser’s case, Albaz added, which would lob it into a whole new dimension of legal issues.

She is afraid the case will slowly resemble that of Hazem Hamouda, an Australian-Egyptian citizen who spent more than a year in Tora prison without ever being charged. Although he was recently freed, Hamouda “vanished” for a month shortly before his scheduled release date in February, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“Right now is the best time for the Canadian government to intervene, because if it turns into a trial or if it enters the judicial process based on fabricated charges or evidence or anything like that, then it becomes much more difficult for the government to intervene.”

Throughout Yasser’s ordeal, Global Affairs Canada has only told HuffPost that the government is aware of a Canadian being detained in Egypt and is providing consular services. The department said it could not provide any more information due to the Privacy Act

On Wednesday, a spokesperson confirmed that Freeland reached out to Albaz’s family and that officials are working with local authorities to “obtain more information.”

To pressure the government to escalate its response, Albaz started a petition on March 28 — her father’s 51st birthday — to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Freeland to intervene. To date, more than 20,000 people have signed the campaign.

“How long is the Canadian government going to wait before they actually make this a priority? How long before they decide to bring him home?” Albaz said.

“They say this is a priority and I want to believe them, [but] the only way I can come to believe them is if he’s home, it’s if I know there’s a clear plan on what is being done to bring him home.”

Family of Canadian man detained in Egypt plead for help

The family of Amal Ahmed Albaz, a Canadian man detained in a notorious Egyptian prison, are pleading with the Canadian government to help them bring him home. Faiza Amin with the latest on the diplomatic efforts to help the Oakville resident.

Family of Canadian man detained in Egypt plead for help

The family of Amal Ahmed Albaz, a Canadian man detained in a notorious Egyptian prison, are pleading with the Canadian government to help them bring him home. Faiza Amin with the latest on the diplomatic efforts to help the Oakville resident.

Posted by CityNews Toronto on Thursday, March 7, 2019

Daughter of Canadian man detained in Egypt begs Trudeau to intervene

Read here: https://www.trtworld.com/mea/daughter-of-canadian-man-detained-in-egypt-begs-trudeau-to-intervene-24600

Last month as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el Sisi was mingling with senior European leaders in the resort city of Sharm el Sheikh, a 24-year-old Amal Ahmed was busy in Canada mobilising support for her father who had been detained by the Egyptian authorities. 

After a short business trip, Yasser Ahmed Albaz, 51, was about to board a Canada-bound flight on February 18 at the Cairo International Airport when his passport was taken away and his bags brought down from the plane. 

“At 10 o’clock he wrote on our family Whatsapp group that he loved us. We didn’t hear from him for a week,” Amal told TRT World over the phone from her home in Oakville, Ontario, where the family of five has lived for 20 years. 

Initially, the Egyptian authorities denied Albaz was in their custody.  Then he was brought before the prosecutor a week later. 

“He hasn’t been charged with anything,” says Amal.

Amal Ahmed, a former Toronto Star reporter, has pleaded Canadian government to intervene in securing her father's release.
Amal Ahmed, a former Toronto Star reporter, has pleaded Canadian government to intervene in securing her father’s release. (Getty Images)

The family’s biggest concern is that Albaz is being kept at the Tora Prison, which is notorious as a place where prisoners are routinely tortured. 

Amal says she and her family travels to Egypt regularly. “We were there just last summer to celebrate my younger sister’s engagement. Nothing like this has ever happened. We have never been questioned or anything like that.”

The Egyptian government is accused of arbitrarily arresting thousands of political and civil rights activists on fabricated charges.

While American and European lawmakers have voiced concerns over human rights violations, their governments continue to back Sisi, a former military commander who came to power in a coup in 2013. 

Since then the Egyptian military has used brutal force to stifle any sort of dissent – often with the indirect backing of its western allies. 

In January 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron was in Egypt where he defended France's security collaboration with Sisi's government.
In January 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron was in Egypt where he defended France’s security collaboration with Sisi’s government. (Getty Images)

Double standards

The EU’s commitment to human rights, especially its staunch opposition to capital punishment, came under the spotlight last month when its senior leadership, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, attended the first EU-Arab League summit in Sharm el Sheikh. 

In the month of February alone Egypt executed 15 men after trials which the United Nations and other human rights organisations termed ‘unfair’. 

It has made some European lawmakers question the close ties with Sisi’s government. 

“We cannot deny the fact that holding of the summit in Egypt at the court of the Pharaoh Al Sisi, has recognised, by default, the authority of the Egyptian dictator,” Pier Antonio Panzeri, a member of the European Parliament, told TRT World

Panzeri, an Italian, heads the EU’s Subcommittee on Human Rights which has been pressing Egypt to solve the case of Giulio Regeni, the young researcher who was murdered in Cairo in 2016.

Paola, the mother of Giulio Regeni, speaks at a press conference in Rome on March 29, 2016.
Paola, the mother of Giulio Regeni, speaks at a press conference in Rome on March 29, 2016. (AP)

“It thus seems absurd that the heads of European governments can truly believe the promises made by the Egyptian leader,” said Panzeri. Particularly, he added, when Sisi is seeking to amend the constitution to extend his rule and his government had just executed so many people.

EU leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron consider Egypt important in fighting terrorism and stemming the flow of refugees. 

France has become Egypt’s largest supplier of military equipment even as human rights organisations say that weapons meant to be deployed against terrorists are used against dissidents. 

“The alarmist political narrative (of migration) that has spread through the EU member states in recent years – especially those bordering the Mediterranean – has increased citizens’ concerns about the issue exponentially,” says Panzeri. 

“For this reason, many countries have preferred to close their eyes to the human rights situation, provided that Egypt takes responsibility for migrants from other African countries, thus acting as a barrier.”

The EU has struggled to come up with a collective response to Egypt because individual member states have their own bilateral interests to look after, he says. 

“Let us not forget that the European Union is a fundamental trading partner for Egypt, and trade can therefore be used as a tool to force the North African country to meet certain standards in the field of human rights.”

Egypt has even detained US citizens, which gives over a billion dollars in military and economic aid to Sisi’s government every year. 

Hosam Khalaf and Ola al Qaradawi, both from the United States, have been in an Egyptian prison since June 2017 without any charges

Washington also looks at its decades-old ally from the prism of security.  

Amid these varying policy interests, Amal is hoping for her father’s return. “It has been a shock for us and I hope the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take up the issue.”

‘I want my father home’: Family of man detained in Egypt calls on Canada to intervene

Read here: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/i-want-my-father-home-family-man-detained-egypt-calls-canada-intervene

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government has been accused of using arbitrary detention to silence its critics (Reuters/File photo)

The family of an Egyptian-Canadian man detained in Egypt for almost two weeks has called on the “highest levels” of Canada’s government to intervene, saying they fear for the safety of Yasser Ahmed Albaz.

In a news conference on Thursday morning in Ottawa, Albaz’s daughter, Amal, said her family has been living a nightmare since 18 February, when Albaz was detained at Cairo International Airport.

“Our lives have turned upside down. Our pain is like a cloud that’s constantly hovering over us … We’re all impacted by this storm,” she told reporters.

“We need the Canadian government to intervene at the highest levels and bring my father home.”

Albaz, a 51-year-old engineer and businessman, was detained at the airport in Cairo as he attempted to return to Canada from a business trip. At first, the Egyptian authorities denied he was in their custody, his family said.

“My father was subjected to enforced disappearance for days,” Amal said.

The family was able to confirm Albaz’s whereabouts when he was taken to the Egyptian state security prosecutor’s office for questioning on 23 February, they said in a statement earlier this week.

He was interrogated again a few days later, on 26 February.

He now is being held at the notorious Tora prison facility in the capital, and his family says they expect him to be questioned again on Saturday.

“Until this moment, my dad continues to be detained at one of the worst prisons in the world. He is sleeping on a concrete floor, without a blanket,” Amal said.

Fears of abuse, mistreatment

Albaz’s family and supporters in Canada also raised concerns on Thursday about the conditions he may be facing in Egyptian detention.

The Egyptian government under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been accused of myriad human rights violations, including the use of torture in order to coerce confessions from detainees.

Human rights groups have described the country’s justice system as deeply flawed, pointing to a widespread lack of due process.

On Monday, a Canadian government spokesman told MEE in an email that “consular services are being provided to a Canadian citizen who has been detained in Egypt and to their family”.

The spokesman said further details could not be provided in light of Canada’s privacy laws.

Ahmed Abdelkader, chairman of the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy, an advocacy group, said while consular services are important, the Canadian government must escalate its diplomatic pressure on Egypt to secure Albaz’s release.Egypt: Executed prisoners had said they were forced to confess to prosecutor’s killingRead More »

“[Albaz] is not the first Canadian to be arbitrarily detained by the current Egyptian regime. Despite lessons learned from past cases, we are concerned that Canadian officials don’t appear to be treating the case with the urgency that it warrants,” Abdelkader said.

Speaking at the news conference on Thursday, he said that to his knowledge, Albaz has not been charged with a crime.

“A Canadian citizen is being arbitrarily held without charge by a brutal regime known for torture and abuse of prisoners,” Abdelkader said.

“It is imperative that [Canadian officials] use any leverage they have in these relations [with Egypt] to secure Yasser’s release. Every moment’s delay increases the risk to Yasser’s safety.”

That was echoed by Amal, Albaz’s daughter.

“We all lost weight, we all can’t sleep – but who am I to complain? It’s my baba [father] who’s truly suffering,” she said.

“We miss you, baba … I want this storm to end. I want to see the rainbow. I want my father home.”

Federal Government Must Escalate Case Of Yasser Ahmed Albaz, Canadian Held In Notorious Tora Prison: Ex-Prisoner

Read here: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/yasser-ahmed-albaz-tarek-loubani_ca_5cd58b33e4b07bc729790ecc

Amal Ahmed Albaz says she has not heard from her father ever since he was detained in Egypt on Feb.
Amal Ahmed Albaz says she has not heard from her father ever since he was detained in Egypt on Feb. 18.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz’s last message to his family was, under any other circumstance, nothing to cause alarm.

It was February 18. Family Day. He was at the airport in Cairo waiting for a flight home after almost two months away for work.

After checking in his luggage, Yasser told his family he was “put on the side” by airport staff and was still waiting for his passport. He later let them know he was going to miss his flight. Then he told them he loved them.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz is pictured with his
Yasser Ahmed Albaz is pictured with his family

“That was the last direct communication we had with him,” his daughter Amal Albaz told HuffPost Canada.

Yasser sent one more message to a friend, explaining that he was being taken away by state security.

Albaz said she immediately reported the case to Canada’s emergency consular services line. She later learned her father was being subjected to “general questioning” but was allowed to have a lawyer present.

“The lawyer himself is very shocked,” she said. “He said this makes absolutely no sense. He has no idea why this is happening as well.”

For almost one week, the family had no idea where Yasser was. Then the nightmare began.

The lawyer told them Yasser has not been charged with anything but that he was being detained and taken to Egypt’s Tora prison complex, a notorious facility often used to detain political prisoners. It’s the same place where Muslim Brotherhood supporters were held after the Egyptian military overthrew Mohamed Morsi — a senior figure in the organization and the country’s first elected president — back in 2013. Many who are suspected of or charged with terrorism are also held there.

“It all feels so very surreal, but at the same time it feels like a nightmare that we’re not waking up from,” Albaz said.

Tora prison has been criticized by human rights advocates for its treatment of prisoners. Its reputation has become so grim that its maximum security wing has been nicknamed the “scorpion.”

According to a 2016 report from Human Rights Watch, inmates in that part of the complex aren’t given any beds or mattresses, sleeping on “concrete platforms” instead. They don’t receive any hygienic items and are often denied medical care and visits by family members, friends and lawyers.

On Wednesday, Albaz said in a statement that Canadian officials have located her father, who is in a “state of shock.”

“He has been sick for several days and the embassy has provided him with medication. He is forced to sleep on the concrete floor during Egypt’s winter, without a blanket or even a pillow. When family members tried providing these basic necessities to the prison, they were denied,” she wrote.

Oakville, Ont.-based engineer Yasser Ahmed Albaz, pictured with his daughter Maryam, has not been able...
Oakville, Ont.-based engineer Yasser Ahmed Albaz, pictured with his daughter Maryam, has not been able to contact his family since February 18.

Albaz said her father, an Oakville, Ont.-based engineer who regularly travels for work, regularly enters and leaves Egypt with no hassle. The family was there last summer for her sister’s engagement party.

“It’s still very unclear why they’re holding him,” Albaz said. “The only thing we can think of is this is a huge mistake. There’s definitely a huge misunderstanding. My father is not politically active, he has no political affiliations. Anything that could be kind of a trigger simply isn’t there.”

While Albaz and her family have no idea what kind of conditions their father is being held in, Tarek Loubani says he can “virtually guarantee” what the experience looks like.

The emergency physician at the London Health Sciences Centre knows first-hand of the horrific conditions at Tora prison. He was detained there for almost seven weeks along with fellow Canadian, filmmaker John Greyson in 2013.

Loubani and Greyson were in Cairo on their way to Gaza to produce a film. But while they were in the Egyptian capital, the deadly Rab’a protests broke out. Hundreds were killed in a brutal crackdown on demonstrators.

Loubani said he tried to tend to some of the wounded while Greyson filmed what was happening, but the two were later accused of killing a police officer, assisting the Muslim Brotherhood, carrying explosives and even simultaneously being informants for Hamas, the CIA and the Mossad.

“When I hear that nobody’s been allowed to see Yasser for a week, I can virtually guarantee you I know exactly what happened there, because that’s what happened with us, that’s what happened before us, that’s what happened after us,” he told HuffPost.

Loubani said on the first day of his detention he and other inmates were made to wait in a van in the scorching mid-August heat.

“They wanted us there, boiling alive.”

He said when the van’s doors opened, two teams of police officers holding clubs were outside.

Loubani said everyone got hit.

Those who could run away fastest got hit less. Anyone who fell while fleeing got hit the most.

Before entering the prison, Loubani said they were all made to wait in a room. The guards asked for the “Canadian” — Greyson.

Loubani said his colleague tried to say he is Canadian, hoping it would protect him somehow. It didn’t. The two were severely beaten, Loubani said.

“There was snot coming out of my nose, there was blood coming down. I was sweating. I was yelling. It was a terrible experience.”

Friends, family and colleagues of Tarek Loubani gather at a rally in Victoria Park in London, Ont. on...
Friends, family and colleagues of Tarek Loubani gather at a rally in Victoria Park in London, Ont. on Sept. 24, 2013, calling on the former Conservative government to become more involved in negotiating the release of Loubani and John Greyson.

There have also been reports of inmates at Tora being denied medical care. Khaled Al-Qazzaz, a Canadian resident who served as an adviser to Morsi, was placed in the prison for almost two years. He suffered spinal injuries while there and was only allowed access to a hospital after a year, according to the Toronto Star.

“The sanitary conditions were terrible and I had skin and stomach problems. My health was deteriorating,” Al-Qazzaz told paper in 2016.

A ‘Kafkaesque, brutal system’

Loubani said he and Greyson were allowed to be examined by a doctor after almost a week in Tora only because they were Canadian citizens.

“Nobody else got that. Nobody was allowed out of the cell for two weeks.”

The doctor documented that Loubani had broken ribs and noted he was concussed, that he was “pissing blood.” Greyson, Loubani said, was beaten so badly that he could almost make out a number “6” on his back from one of the guard’s boots.

“When we left, we left 50 days in, nobody had yet been charged,” Loubani said, adding that the time they spent in Tora was an “investigation period,” which is how authorities justified not laying any charges.

He said this was a pivotal time for Canadian authorities to intervene and secure their release.

“That’s why it was so key for us to get out before we were charged, because if we were charged then you’re part of this kind of Kafkaesque, brutal system. There’s not much that you can really do to interrupt it.”

Mahmoud Loubani (left) beams after his son Tarek Loubani (centre) and John Greyson returned to Canada...
Mahmoud Loubani (left) beams after his son Tarek Loubani (centre) and John Greyson returned to Canada after being imprisoned in Egypt for over a month.

Albaz echoed that concern. She said although Canadian authorities in Egypt are working to track down and visit her father, she wants more from the federal government at home.

Asked if Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were intervening in the case, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada only told HuffPost the government is aware of a Canadian detained in Egypt and noted that it was providing consular services.

“I’m not hearing any signals of urgency or escalations to the minister or higher, which is something that we need urgently,” Albaz said.

“I need my father out of prison and on a plane back home. Only [Freeland] can do that.”

Loubani said the federal government needs to apply political pressure and make it clear that there will be “consequences” if Yasser is not given his basic human rights. He said the former Conservative government took this type of approach when he was detained.

Canadian engineer Yasser Ahmed Albaz, right, is pictured with his daughters Maryam Ahmed (left) and Amal
Canadian engineer Yasser Ahmed Albaz, right, is pictured with his daughters Maryam Ahmed (left) and Amal Ahmed.

He said he understands how much Albaz’s family is suffering, and he can certainly understand what her father could be going through. But most of all, he hurts knowing that Yasser’s case is not unique.

“You know what the worst thing about it is? This is happening to thousands of Egyptians,” he said.

“And I know that we can’t change that or stop that, but we can in this one case, and we have to in this one case.”

Albaz said more than 3,000 emails have been sent to Freeland and other MPs urging the government to escalate its response and secure Yasser’s release. Loubani said that type of collective pressure on the government is crucial.

“We got out of because of the work of thousands of Canadians who made phone calls, who wrote letters and who signed petitions,” Loubani said.

“Sometimes it feels as though those efforts are in vain, but I’m free. And [Greyson] is free. And that would have never happened without every single person who signed, who called, who fought, who asked, who demanded. Not only is it a way, it’s probably the only way that this man comes home safely to his family.”

Canadian citizen detained in Egypt jails, says foreign ministry

Read here: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190226-canadian-citizen-detained-in-egypt-jails-says-foreign-ministry/

Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Foreign Minister [Twitter]
Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Foreign Minister [Twitter]

Canada is “aware” that a Canadian citizen has been arrested by the Egyptian authorities and detained in the country’s local prisons, Canadian foreign ministry announced yesterday.

In an official statement, the ministry’s spokesperson Richard Walker said that the detainee, identified as Yasser Ahmed Albaz, was arrested in December during his business trip to Egypt, refusing to disclose further information about him “for privacy reasons.”

“Consular services are being provided to the family,” Walker stressed.

Albaz’s family told Canada’s CBC that he was stopped at the Cairo International Airport by the local security as he was attempting to board his flight back to the eastern Canadian province of Ontario.

The family explained that an airport security officer confiscated Albaz’s passport and informed him that his name was flagged for investigation. He was reported to have been arrested afterwards.

Right after his arrest, the family added, Albaz sent a text message to one of his friends, informing him that he had been arrested. “This is when we last heard from him [Albaz],” family stressed.

Albaz’s daughter, Amal, on her part, said that the Canadian government informed her family earlier this week that Canadian officials in Egypt were in contact with the local government “to seek answers.”

“The state authorities at first denied that they were holding my father, but later admitted he is in custody,” Amal pointed out, adding that the authorities refused to reveal Albaz’s whereabouts.

“An injustice has been done to my father,” she stressed.

The family called on the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, to intervene and demand the release of Albaz.

Albaz is a Canadian 52-year-old engineer of Egyptian origin. For two decades, he and his family have been living in Ontario’s suburban town of Oakville.

Last Saturday, Canada’s foreign ministry-affiliated Global Affairs told the family that Albaz being questioned at the State Security Prosecutor’s office, noting that he had not been charged with any crimes. He was later transferred to Cairo’s Tora prison, according to the family.

In January, Cairo deported two Germans of Egyptian origin after being detained for allegedly “attempting to join Daesh terrorist ranks in the Sinai Peninsula.”

Since the President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took power – after overthrowing Egypt’s first freely-elected president Mohamed Morsi in the 2013 military coup – the government has been launching a crackdown on anyone suspected of opposing Al-Sisi.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian groups have repeatedly criticised the Egyptian authorities for carrying out arbitrary detentions, as well as torturing of detainees. Sisi denies the allegations.

Family frantic over arrest of Canadian engineer in Cairo

Read here: https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2019/02/25/family-frantic-over-arrest-of-canadian-engineer-in-cairo/

Yasser Ahmed Albaz, left, pictured with his wife, Safaa Elashmawy. He was detained at Cairo airport last Monday as he was about to board a flight home to Canada. He is currently in Egypt’s infamous Tora prison. No charges have been laid. (Amal Ahmed Albaz/Supplied)

The family of a Canadian detained last week in Egypt as he was about to board a flight home is asking Ottawa to get more involved in finding out what is going on.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz was taken into custody last Monday and is now reportedly being held in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison complex.

The 51-year-old Albaz, an engineer who had been in Egypt on a business trip since December, has apparently not been charged.

Global Affairs Canada says it has provided consular services but has provided little other information.

Tora Prison, where Canadian Yasser Ahmed Albaz is currently being held (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Albaz’s daughter Amal Ahmed Albaz says her family was “torn apart” when her father was stopped at Cairo International Airport.

She says her father’s passport was seized as he was taken for questioning.

She says the family has no idea why Albaz, who runs an engineering firm in Oakville, Ontario, was detained.

“My father has no political affiliations,” she says.

“He’s not politically active whatsoever. His business is engineering: it has nothing to do with state security or anything like that.”

Originally from Egypt, the Albaz family has living as Canadian citizens for almost 20 years.

Amal Ahmed Albaz says the family regularly took business trips and vacations in Egypt.

Albaz’s arrest came just days after Amnesty International rebuked Egypt for “violating international law by denying family visits to scores of detainees” currently in prisons in Cairo and Alexandria.

The family of a Canadian man from Oakville is ‘horror struck’ after he was detained in a brutal Egyptian prison

Read here: https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/02/25/news/family-canadian-man-oakville-horror-struck-after-he-was-detained-brutal-egyptian

Yasser Ahmed with his wife, Safaa Elashmawy in a 2018 photo that was taken in Egypt. Supplied photo

Yasser Ahmed Albaz was about to board a flight from Cairo, Egypt to Canada on the night of Feb. 18, when security pulled him aside and confiscated his passport. He was told by an officer that he had been flagged for investigation. Then, he was arrested.

The last thing Albaz told his family was that he loved him. That WhatsApp message reached them at 10 p.m., his eldest daughter, Amal, recalls.

In the week since, neither Amal, nor her two younger siblings or their mother have heard directly from their father. They received some information through a message he sent to a friend in Egypt who said he had been arrested by Egypt’s state security. They’ve also received updates from a lawyer they hired and Canadian consular officials.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Albaz had contacted a friend directly but wasn’t able to contact his family in Oakville, Ontario.

The Albaz family said that they learned which prison he had been taken after hiring a lawyer in Cairo. The lawyer and Canadian consular officials have confirmed to the family that Albaz was being held in Cairo’s Tora prison for additional questioning, expected to take place on Tuesday.

Albaz has not yet been charged with any crime, the family said.

They declined to provide National Observer with the lawyer’s name and contact information out of fear that this could endanger the lawyer’s safety.

The Tora prison has been the focus of a Human Rights Watch report that revealed its harsh conditions, torture practices and routine human rights violations of thousands of prisoners.

“We’re horror-struck,” Amal told National Observer, adding that her father isn’t political. “There is no clarity on why this happened. We don’t know anything right now.”

Albaz, 51, had been on a business trip Cairo since December, working with a client for his small engineering firm in Oakville. Amal said that her father remained in touch with the family throughout the trip, until he was detained.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement they were aware of the detention of a Canadian citizen, but that they couldn’t disclose additional information for privacy reasons, said spokesman Richard Walker.

Despite being in touch with a consular officer, Amal is urging the Canadian government to intervene at the highest levels and apply pressure on the Egyptian government for more information and his release.

More specifically, they want Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to intervene. In recent months, Freeland has spoken out about detentions of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, and about the two Canadian men who remain in custody in China.

Walker was unable to confirm if either Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Freeland had been informed of the matter.

“We need the prime minister and Minister Freeland to pick up the phone now,” Amal said. “The biggest concern for us is his safety.”

“We can’t let our father spend another day in that horrible prison.”

‘By now, he will have been brutalized and tortured’

Egypt has been on the radar of human rights organizations and news agencies in recent months for its practice of arbitrary detentions and abuse of detainees. Amnesty’s 2018 report on the country found that “the authorities used torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearance against hundreds of people, and dozens were extrajudicially executed with impunity.”

The same day as Albaz’s arrest, Egyptian authorities detained a New York Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick, holding him incommunicado for hours before forcing him onto a flight back to London without explanation. At the time, Michael Slackman, international editor of The New York Times, said: “We are deeply disturbed that the government of Egypt detained our correspondent, kept him incommunicado, denied him food or water and refused to allow him into the country.”

Albaz is the fifth high-profile arrest of a Canadian in Egypt over the past five years, including John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, and Khaled Al-Qazzaz.

At the time, the government’s direct intervention aided in their release.

“I know exactly the journey he took from the first step he took to now,” Loubani, an emergency physician at the London Health Sciences Centre, said in an interview. “By now, he will have been brutalized and tortured…It’s been a week. I guarantee they’re trying to hide their scars or worse. “

Loubani was detained by the Egyptian government in 2013 with Greyson, without explanation for over 50 days. They were both “beaten to a pulp” in what he calls was a “welcoming celebration” that every inmate at Tora prison received. He describes it as “an eight hour long brutality.”

“It’s not a secret there,” he said. “Everybody knows about it.”

When Loubani demanded a medical examination, the doctors found he had broken ribs and that he was urinating blood. Greyson had an obvious boot mark in his back.

“The experience was mine and I never want it to be anybody else’s,” he said. “I do not care what this man’s political inclination is. What I know is no man deserves that treatment.”

Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was also released in 2015 after spending more than 400 days in a maximum security Egyptian prison.

‘He needs to come home today’

The entire detention process in Egypt is defined by its arbitrariness and brutality, Loubani said of his experience. “This is the MO of the Egyptian dictatorship,” he said, noting that the only thing that got him and Greyson released was “massive pressure by the Canadian government.”

There is no legal exit for Albaz, Loubani said, because there is no independent judiciary in Egypt at the moment.

“It is 100 per cent subservient to the military dictatorship,” he said. “There’s only one solution here and that solution is political…”They need to apply pressure because these things will only get worse over time. Canada’s voice matters and Canada’s voice has a say is (Albaz’s) case.”

“I know that we can’t realistically stop the arrest of every Egyptian that’s being unfairly detained but…it’s incumbent on us to protect the people we can, and that’s Canadians,” he added.

The Albaz family says it is most concerned about the prison’s brutal reputation.

“We’ve been in Canada for two decades,” Amal told National Observer. “We’ve traveled back and forth many times and nothing like this has ever happened.”

The community has rallied around the family; Albaz was a well-known philanthropist and businessman in the community. But, the family hasn’t been able to sleep or eat properly since, Amal said.

“Every time we think about how stressed we are, we think about how much worse it is for him,” she said. “He needs to come home today.”

Oakville man held in Egypt

Read here: https://www.chch.com/oakville-man-held-in-egypt/

An Oakville man has been detained in Egypt and transferred to a notoriously ruthless prison. His family is calling on the Prime Minister to request his immediate release.

“There’s absolutely nothing that he has done wrong. This has to be a huge misunderstanding.” Amal Ahmed Albar, Yasser’s daughter.

51 year old Yasser Ahmed Albaz was in Egypt on a 2 month business trip. Amal says all was fine until he went to leave the country a week ago.

“As soon as he went to the airport his passport was confiscated and he wasn’t allowed to fly.”

Now the Aakville family, who immigrated from Egpyt two decades ago, has been thrown into an unthinkable situation.

“An officer told him his name was flagged by the system and that was it. Maybe there was a similarity in names?”

He’s been questioned but has yet to be charged. He is now being held in the notorious Tora prison known to torture those inside.

“After the questioning they took him to the prison and no one has spoken to him since.”

Amal says over 2 000 letters of support have been sent to MP’s, foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

If Albaz did nothing wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time a Canadian was detained unlawfully in Egypt. John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani were arrested, beaten and spent seven weeks inside the Tora prison in Cairo. After diplomatic and public pressure the men were finally released.

Loubani took to social media saying, John Greyson and I were beaten and tortured in Egypt. Canadian Yasser Albaz is currently experiencing the same, and I pray he is not killed in the process. Canada must act swiftly and forcefully to bring him back.

Albaz is expected to be questioned again by authorities in Egypt Tuesday.

Family of Oakville man detained in Egypt calls on feds to step in

Read here: https://torontosun.com/news/national/family-of-oakville-man-detained-in-egypt-calls-on-feds-to-step-in

Yasser Ahmed Albaz and his wife Safaa Elashmawy are seen in an undated handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Safaa Elashmawy)

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.”