Canadian released from Egyptian prison after almost 500 days in custody

Canadian engineer Yasser Ahmed Albaz is out of an Egyptian prison after nearly 500 days in custody and met with his family in Oakville, Ontario, his daughter said today.

Albaz arrived at Toronto's Pearson airport this morning. His health "deteriorated" and his top priority now is to seek much needed medical treatment after 18 months in an Egyptian prison, Amal Ahmed Albaz said in a Facebook post.

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"Our family's ordeal is finally coming to an end," said Albaz. "We ask that he have time to calmly heal from this ordeal and spend quality time with his family."

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said the department was "pleased" that Albaz met with his family here in Canada. "Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no additional information can be released," said the spokesman.

Albaz traveled to Egypt on a two-month business trip, but was detained by authorities when he was leaving the country in February 2019.

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His family lost all contact with him for days when he was questioned by Egyptian police at the State Security Prosecutor's office. He was then transferred to Torah Prison, a place known for human rights violations.

His passport was confiscated and the Egyptian embassy in Canada said initially that it knew nothing about the case.

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Albaz was never formally charged and the Egyptian authorities never explained why he was in prison.

Her daughter said her father, who emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, is not politically active and was "not sincere against the Egyptian government at all. He was just on a business trip".

Last month, the family reported that their father had symptoms similar to the coronavirus and did not have access to adequate health care in the prison where he was being held.

"There is no way for Yasser to protect himself from the virus. In addition to there being no medical response, the cells are overcrowded, a bathroom is shared, conditions are highly unsanitary and physical distance is impossible," the family said in a status update. on their website.

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The family was actively seeking their release with a letter campaign that was pressuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government to broker some kind of release.

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Supporters also held "Free Yasser" protests outside the offices of liberal parliamentarians in southern Ontario.

Albaz credited the minister of Foreign Affairs and Trudeau François-Philippe Champagne with the guarantee of his father's release.

"We are forever grateful for all the people who supported our family," said Albaz.

Trudeau spoke to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by phone last Wednesday.

Asked about the call the next day, Trudeau said he and El Sisi "spoke directly about the Albaz case".

"We are working very closely with the Egyptian authorities in this case and we will continue to monitor it very closely, listening very clearly to the voices of family members and Canadians concerned about the situation in Albaz," said Trudeau.

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