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Oakville man transferred to Egyptian prison following detention

Last Updated Feb 24, 2019 at 3:08 pm EDT

Yasser Ahmed Albaz is pictured with his wife. Photo courtesy Amal Ahmed

The family of an Oakville businessman being detained in Egypt is calling for his immediate release and urging the Canadian government to intervene at the highest levels.

Amal Ahmed says they last heard from her father, Yasser Ahmed Albaz, on Monday night as he was preparing to return home following an extended business trip. The 51-year-old left Canada for Egypt back in December but when he showed up at Cairo International Airport on Family Day, authorities confiscated his passport and he was taken into custody by state security.

Ahmed says her father was questioned by the State Security Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday but has not been charged. Instead, he has been sent to Torah prison, which is notorious for its harsh conditions, and the family has been told he will be called back for questioning on Tuesday.

“We have no idea why he’s being detained,” Ahmed told CityNews. “My father is not political whatsoever, he has no political affiliation in Egypt. It’s a shock to all of us.”

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 spokesperson from Global Affairs tells CityNews the government is aware that a Canadian citizen was detained in Egypt. Richard Walker said consular services are being provided and officials are in contact with local authorities to obtain more information.

Canada has issued several travel advisories asking that people avoid all non-essential travel to Egypt due to the “unpredictable security situation” in the country. It also warns that the ability to provide consular services on short notice may be limited.

Amal said that her mother, father and two siblings have traveled to the north African nation frequently and most recently this past summer for a wedding.

“Egypt has been unstable for a couple years now, but we’ve been back and forth and there’s never been a problem or concern for us.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report