Canadian resident freed from Cairo jail needs medical attention: wife
Michelle Zilio, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, January 12, 2015 7:25PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 3, 2015 9:43PM EST
The wife of Khaled Al-Qazzaz, the Canadian resident who was recently released from an Egyptian prison, says her husband’s medical needs will be priority upon his return to Canada.
Speaking with CTV News Channel Monday, Al-Qazzaz's wife Sarah Attia recounted the phone call she had with her husband the day he was released from custody in an Egyptian hospital.
"He said 'I'm coming home soon.' He told me that the guards had left the hospital room and had told him that he's a free man and that he would be coming home soon to me and the kids," said Attia.
Al-Qazzaz, a 35-year-old University of Toronto engineering graduate and father of four, has been imprisoned in Cairo for more than a year.
He was working as an aide to now-ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi when he was arrested along with Morsi and eight other aides in July 2013. His arrest came after the Egyptian military removed Morsi from office. Egyptian authorities never charged Al-Qazzaz or explained why he was arrested.
Al-Qazzaz was transferred from solitary confinement to a hospital two months ago when he apparently lost motion in his arms and began experiencing severe pain. Attia says the family has already made arrangements for him to receive the medical care he needs in Canada.
"Even though he had the spinal surgery that he needs, his health has stabilized a little bit, I am hoping that he gets home soon so that we can be reunited, we can get our lives back together and, most importantly, he can get the surgery that he needs."
While Egypt's attorney general ordered Al-Qazzaz's release on Dec. 29, it was not clear why he wasn't released right away. In a statement Sunday, his family said they remained guarded until Al-Qazzaz was home.
Attia maintains that her husband is innocent.
"My husband was a young man who wanted to make a difference," said Attia. "That's why he joined the Freedom and Justice Party. He was never a member of Muslim Brotherhood. He was asked to join the president's office as the secretary for foreign affairs and he held the files of human rights. So that what he was doing."
The case has attracted attention from human rights groups, including Amnesty International. Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said Al-Qazzaz’s release was a welcomed development.
"The fact that he's free to go and can hopefully fairly soon get on that plane and make the return trip, once his health allows that, is very good news," Neve told CTV's Power Play Monday.
Al-Qazzaz's release comes as Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy hopes for a similar outcome. Fahmy, along with two of his Al-Jazeera colleagues, were convicted last year of terror-related charges and sentenced to between seven and 10 years in an Egyptian prison. Fahmy maintains his innocence, saying he was working as a journalist when he was arrested.
Neve said Al-Qazzaz's release may be good news for Fahmy.
"Let's hope that this is an encouraging pattern. There's obviously been positive developments in both cases," said Neve. "With Mr. Fahmy, he's obviously still in limbo."
An Egyptian court recently ordered a retrial for Fahmy and his colleagues.
"It is in the hands of the Egyptian authorities to decide that doing it (the trial) again this time could mean doing the right thing and simply dropping the charges and letting him go, and that's what we're waiting for," said Neve.
With files from the Canadian Press