WATCH ABOVE: Supporters in Toronto demand release of man jailed in Egypt. He’s been in jail for months but as Cindy Pom reports there’s no word on when or if the Canadian government will get involved.
TORONTO – A rally was held in downtown Toronto Saturday to free a Canadian resident from an Egyptian prison.
Khaled Al-Qazzaz, a permanent Canadian resident and father to four children, has been languishing in Egypt’s notorious Tora prison for almost 300 days since the Egyptian military ousted the country’s first democratically-elected president Mohammed Morsi on July 3, 2013.
Al-Qazzaz’s wife, Sarah Attia, said the rally at Yonge-Dundas Square is about sending a message to the Canadian government to put pressure on Egypt to release her husband.
Although Al-Qazzaz was born in Egypt and has not received Canadian citizenship, Attia says the issue is about their family.
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“I’m Canadian, my children are Canadian. We are a Canadian family,” said Attia. “At the same time, this is a very clear human rights issue.”
Attia, who was born and raised in Mississauga, Ont., met Al-Qazzaz while they were studying at the University of Toronto. She said they decided to move back to Egypt in 2005, along with their four Canadian-born children who are between the ages of 18 months and eight years old, to work on an education project.
“My children are waiting for their father to come home,” said Attia. “No one has been giving us any answers. What has he done? He has done nothing wrong.”
Al-Qazzaz was also working as the Secretary to the President for Foreign Relations for the Morsi government before he was arrested.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said in an email statement that foreign affairs is aware of the situation, but offered few details.
“We are aware of the detention of Mr. Al-Qazzaz and Canadian officials remain in contact with his family,” said spokesperson Béatrice Fénelon. “To protect the private and personal information of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released.”
Al-Qazzaz’s case has received attention from human rights group Amnesty International, which has listed his case as needing intervention.
Earlier this week Amnesty wrote an open letter to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calling for action to address human rights violations in Egypt and the release of Khaled Al-Qazzaz.
*With files from Cindy Pom