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The New Arab Staff

Dozens of protesters call for release of Canadian held without trial in notorious Egyptian prison

Yaser Albaz has been held in Egypt since February 2019 without trial [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 June, 2020

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Protests took place in three Canadian cities calling for the release of a man held in Egypt’s notorious Tora prison without trial, amid fears he has contracted coronavirus.

Activists in Canada organised three protests on Friday calling for the release of an Egyptian-Canadian man who has been detained in a notorious prison in Egypt for over one year without charge or trial, the Arabic news website Arabi21 reported.

53-year-old Yasser Ahmed Albaz visited Egypt in December 2018 for business purposes. Although he and his family had visited Egypt before on a regular basis without incident, his passport was confiscated by officials at Cairo Airport when he tried to return to Canada, with authorities revealing his name had been flagged for investigation.

Read more: My dad came to Cairo for a family holiday. Instead, he disappeared.

Albaz has been held since February 2019 in the Tora prison near Cairo, where conditions are inhumane and detainees are frequently tortured, according to Human Rights Watch.

Albaz’s family now fear that he has been infected with the coronavirus. His daughter Amal has led an international campaign to secure his release.

“We have been told from our source that another prisoner has died in my father’s wing from Covid-19 and that some guards were infected and spread it in the prison. He is held in a cell with so many inmates and one shared toilet. It has been very difficult for him,” Amal told the Turkish TV channel TRT World.

In demonstrations held in the Canadian cities of Toronto, Mississauga, and Oakville – which is Yasser Albaz’s hometown – dozens of protesters held up signs condemning Albaz’s continued detention.

His family have pleaded with the Canadian government to secure his release.

The Albaz family released a statement saying that Albaz’s health had deteriorated in the past few days and he was already showing symptoms of coronavirus.

“For some days now, Yasser has been experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. Information received by the family confirms he is suffering from severe cough, extreme fatigue, tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing,” the statement

“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.”

Albaz holds both Egyptian and Canadian citizenship, having immigrated to Canada over 20 years ago. His family say that he has never committed a crime and has “no political affiliations whatsoever”.

Tens of thousands of people have been arbitrarily arrested and disappeared in Egypt after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi came to power following a 2013 military coup.

Prisoners are routinely tortured and subjected to abuse. Last month, Shady Habash, a 24-year-old video producer died after spending two years in Tora prison for working on a music video mocking Sisi.

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