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Court deadline nears for Canadian in Cairo prison

Sarah Attia says her husband, Khaled Al-Qazzaz, is being treated inhumanely in an Egyptian prison, and that since he is a permanent resident of Canada, not a citizen, Ottawa can’t do much to help.

Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

A Canadian woman whose husband has been detained in Egypt since last July says he was supposed to have his first court appearance on Saturday but was never taken from his windowless cell to appear before a judge.

Khaled al-Qazzaz, a 34-year-old permanent resident of Canada, met his wife, Sarah Attia, in this country while studying chemical engineering at the University of Toronto. He was a secretary of foreign relations in the government of president Mohammed Morsi but has never been charged with a crime. He was scooped up with other members of the former government in July, but it was not until December that Egyptian officials acknowledged that he was being held in the country's most infamous prison.

Egyptian law says prisoners must appear in court within five months of their detainment, which means the authorities have until May 17 to give him his first hearing.

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Ms. Attia, who has returned to Canada with their four children (all of whom were born in this country and are Canadian citizens), was anxious for news of what would happen to her husband on Saturday. She says she was frustrated to learn his situation remained unchanged.

"This is how the last five months have been," Ms. Attia said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "I wake up every single day just waiting to hear if he is going to go [to court] or not."

Mr. al-Qazzaz's lawyers, she said, have spent much time running around trying to find out whether his case was finally going ahead.

"We have had times when he has actually shown up in the prosecutors' office and his lawyers didn't know and would find out later that he was there. This is just how the legal system is right now. No reliability or consistency," said Ms. Attia. "It is very stressful for all of us."

Many Egyptian detainees are forced to appear in court without their attorneys, the family has been told by lawyers.

An Egyptian court has handed death sentences to hundred of supporters of Mr. Morsi, and Ms. Attia said she fears the same fate may await her husband.

Mr. al-Qazzaz's 70-year-old father was also arrested last fall without being charged.

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Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird raised the cases of Mr. al-Qazzaz and Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who has been held with two of his colleagues in a Cairo prison since late December, with Egyptian officials when he travelled to Cairo over the Easter weekend.

Ms. Attia was grateful for the intervention and said she wants the Canadian government to call for her husband to be released immediately and unconditionally.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More


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