Canadian engineer released from Egypt needs treatment, family says

TORONTO — A Canadian engineer arrested in Egypt last year arrived back in Canada on Thursday and was in need of medical attention, his family said.

The health of Yasser Albaz, 52, of Oakville, Ont., had been deteriorating and was a "top priority, his daughter Amal Albaz said.

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Albaz, who had been vocal in calling for her father's release for more than a year, said the family's ordeal was finally coming to an end.

"We are forever grateful for each and every person who supported our family," she said in a statement.

A friend of the family, Ahmad Attia, said Albaz was in self-isolation at home. It was not clear what treatment Albaz might need, he said.

"It is really too early to tell until physicians see him," Attia said.

Egyptian authorities detained Albaz at the Cairo airport after a business trip in February 2019. He is a dual citizen of Canada and Egypt and was travelling on his Canadian passport at the time.

His daughter has previously told The Canadian Press that the family did not know why he had been detained and questioned, since he had not been charged. She also said Canadian diplomats had been barred from visiting him in prison since March because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Albaz's family grew more frantic last month after learning the husband and father had developed symptoms of COVID-19, and that a 42-year-old fellow inmate in the prison had died from coronavirus disease. Albaz, had pre-existing medical conditions that put him at an even greater risk, his family said.

They said he was being held in a prison with unhygienic conditions, limited ventilation and almost no medical care."

The family expressed their gratitude to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had also spoken out about Albaz's case and talked to the president of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last year during a meeting in Ethiopia.

They also thanked Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who raised the case with his Egyptian counterpart last month. Champagne had been responsive to the family, the daughter said.

"We are extremely grateful for the support of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister Anita Anand, Ambassador Jess Dutton, and supportive members of parliament and government staff," the family statement said.

Global Affairs Canada confirmed the return. The government was "pleased that Yasser Ahmed Albaz has been reunited with his family here in Canada," spokeswoman Angela Savard said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 2, 2020.

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