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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.

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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.

We need him home now

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.

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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.

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