Free Khaled Al-Qazzaz

Background on Open-Letter

Khaled Al-Qazzaz was one of the first persons to be detained after the Egyptian military coup on July 3, 2013.  He has been in solitary confinement and has now reached 365 days of detainment without charge. Click here for a briefing on his situation. 
Sarah Attia, his Canadian-born wife, has been advocating for the Canadian government to intervene for the freedom of her husband.  
An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been prepared and signed by leading Canadian academics, lawyers, professionals, authors, artists, celebrities, writers, thinkers, activists and Canadian organizations.


To The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

We, the undersigned, are calling upon you as concerned Canadian citizens and organizations to use the full power of your office to demand the immediate release of Canadian permanent resident Khaled Al-Qazzaz who has been illegally detained in Egypt for over 365 days without charge and is in present danger of suffering a heart attack. He should have been promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence or released.  One year is most certainly not prompt.  His illegal detention was, in fact, recently extended by an Egyptian court. Your intervention is critical in securing his immediate release and safe return home to Canada.  

Khaled is the husband of Canadian citizen Sarah Attia and the father of four young Canadians: Abdelrahman (8), Amena (5), Fatema (4), and Tahrir (2). He was arrested on July 3, 2013 while working as an aide for former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi who, as you know, was the first democratically elected leader in Egypt’s history. Khaled is currently incarcerated in the maximum-security Scorpion wing of Tora prison in Cairo in a cell the size of a broom-closet, in heat in excess of 45°C.

Khaled’s situation is grave and urgent. In addition to the appalling conditions of his solitary confinement, his health is deteriorating rapidly. A recent doctor’s report found that his solitary confinement has caused, and is exacerbating, numerous medical problems. Conditions in his cell are causing pressure on nerves in his left arm, which has now become partially immobile. Extremely difficult sleeping conditions have resulted in significant knee pain, which could lead to long-term disability or surgery.  The most recent information we have received regarding Khaled’s condition has revealed significant compression of his spinal cord which is causing him profound weakness. If this is not treated with surgery immediately, it may result in paraplegia. Furthermore, his weakness is being exacerbated by the extreme temperatures in which he is being held, which when combined with the significant humidity are causing heat exhaustion and significant dehydration and may lead to acute renal failure.

 As you are well aware, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one may be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or imprisonment. In addition, international human rights standards require that detainees be charged, tried promptly and afforded a fair trial.

Khaled’s basic human rights have been violated for over a year now. There is no legal basis for his detention – he has been not been charged with any recognizable criminal or other offence. To reiterate, he has not been charged with a crime in any court. He has had no trial.

Egypt is in breach of its international commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the First United Nations Congress in 1955; and the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990.

Every nation has an obligation to encourage other nations to respect international laws and norms.

This case has received significant public and political attention in the last six months. Its facts have become a matter of public record. We have attached a letter from Khaled that was smuggled out of prison and printed in the New York Times on June 28, 2014. In it, Khaled explains why he chose to return to Egypt to strive for its educational, social and economic welfare. He explains his beliefs, ideology and motivations and asks why the world has been so silent on his status. (Link to New York Times Op-Ed)

We believe that Canada cannot be silent any longer.

We are now calling upon you, Prime Minister, to take prompt and meaningful action.

We live in a country whose profound commitment to human rights has always been recognized by the international community. It is with the knowledge of and pride in this commitment that we raise Khaled’s case with you. We have every expectation that you will remain true to our proud legacy.

Prime Minister, we ask that you intervene vigorously on behalf of Khaled’s wife, Sarah, and their four young children. As Canadians, they have every expectation that you will recognize this case as a travesty of justice and do everything in your power to secure his immediate return and re-unite Khaled with his family.


Baher Abdulhai - Professor, University of Toronto

Nadia Abu Zahra - Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa

Saad Ahmad - Lawyer

Ike Ahmed - Internationally-Recognized Ophthalmologist; Professor, University of Toronto and University of Utah

Shireen Ahmed - Writer and Activist

Shahid Akhtar - Co-Chair, Canadian Association of Muslims and Jews

Grant Allen - Professor, University of Toronto

Warren Allmand - International Human Rights Consultant

Hadeel Al-Shalchi - Crisis Regional Media Officer, International Rescue Committee

Rachad Antonius - Professeur Titulaire, Université du Québec à Montréal

Maher Arar - Canadian Activist

Amir Attaran - Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Margaret Atwood - Author

Yusuf BadatImam - Islamic Foundation of Toronto

Reem Bahdi - Associate Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor

Natasha Bakht - Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Samreen Beg - Lawyer

Abderrahman Beggar - Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

Ronald Beiner - Professor, University of Toronto

Faisal Bhabha - Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

Sirma Bilge - Associate Professor, University de Montreal

Katherine Bullock - Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga

Gerald Caplan - Public Affairs Commentator

Emily F. Carasco - Professor Emiriitus, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor

Joseph Carens - Professor, University of Toronto

Angela Chaisson - Lawyer, Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan Barristers

Maliha Chisti - Lecturer, Ryerson University

Paul Copeland C.M. - Lawyer, Life Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada

Jeewan Chanicka - Education and Community Activist

Nafisah Chowdhury - Lawyer, Miller Thomson LLP

Emir Crowne - Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor

Ibrahim Danial - Principal, Danial Law; Director, Downtown Muslim Professional Network

Gail Davidson - Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada - LRWC

Hilary E. Davis - Course Director, York University

Peter Eglin - Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

Kim Elliot - Publisher,

Yves Engler - Author and Activist

Greg Evans - Professor, University of Toronto

Mohammad Fadel - Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

John W. Foster - Instructor, Carleton University

Mihad Fahmy - Lawyer

El-Tantawy AttiaExecutive Director, Masjid Toronto

Cecilia Greyson - Writer, Artist

John Greyson - Associate Professor, York University; Video artist, Writer and Activist

Yaser Haddara - Associate Professor, McMaster University

Wael Haddara - Associate Professor, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University

Hussein A. Hamdani - Partner, Simpson Wigle Law LLP

Yavar Hameed - Lawyer, Hameed & Farrokhzad; Sessional Lecturer, Carleton University (Department of Law and Legal Studies)

Karen Hamilton - Reverend; General Secretary, The Canadian Council of Churches

Nader Hasan - Partner, Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan Barristers; Adjunct Professor, University of Toronto Faculty of Law

Ayesha Hussain - M.D., CCFP

Mohamed Huque - Journalist

Barbara Jackman - Partner, Jackman Nazami & Associates

Fatima Jaffer - PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia

Jawad Jafry - Documentary Producer

Mustafa Jilani - Lawyer, KSM Law

Yasmin Jiwani - Professor, Concordia University

Christine Jones - Co-Chair, Canadian Peace Alliance

Jasminka Kalajdzic - Associate Professor, University of Windsor

Azeezah Kanji - JD, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law

Fayaz Karim - Politician; Executive Member, Peel Poverty Action Group

Abdul-Basit Khan - Partner, WeirFoulds LLP

Aliya Khan - Clinical Professor, McMaster University

Fozia Khan - Writer and Artist

Omar Shabbir Khan - Barrister, Solicitor, Notary

Rukhsana Khan - Author

Sharifa Khan - J.D. 2013

Sheema Khan - Monthly Columnist, Globe and Mail; Associate, Shapiro Cohen LLP

Yomna Khatib - Lawyer

Huda Khattab - Writer and Translator

Raja Khouri - Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

Shaila Kibria-Carter - Executive Director - Labour Community Services of Peel

Warren Kinsella - President of DCG; Toronto-based Lawyer, Author, Musician, Political Consultant, Commentator

Myrna Kostash - Writer

Faisal Kutty - Partner, KSM Law; Assistant Professor of Law, Valparaiso University Law School;
Adjunct Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University

Barbara Landau - Psychologist, Mediator, Lawyer

Peter Larson - PhD

Lisa Leoni - Co-Chair, Educators for Social Justice

James Lockyer - Partner, Lockyer Campbell Posner

Camille Logan - Equity and Education Activist

Tamara Lorincz - Board Member, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace

Monia Mazigh - Author, Activist

Julie Macfarlane - Professor of Law, University of Windsor

Kathleen Mahoney - QC, Fellow, Royal Society of Canada

Patricia Molloy - Contract Faculty, Wilfrid Laurier University

Ginella Massa - Journalist, Rogers Television

Ingrid Mattson - Professor, Huron University College

William McBain - Healthcare Advocate

Hon. Dan McTeague - Former Canadian Member of Parliament

Shelina Merani - Muslim Presence

Ziyaad Mia - Lawyer; Adjunct Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

Akbar Mohamed - Lawyer, KSM Law

Hodan A. Mohamed - Doctoral Student

Muhammad Munshi - Adjunct Lecturer, Medical Imaging, University of Toronto

Muneeb Nasir - Writer and Activist

Hadayt Nazami - Partner, Jackman Nazami & Associates

Alex Neve - Secretary  General Amnesty International Canada (English branch)

Obiora Okafor - Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

Erna Paris - Author

Abdul Hai Patel - Muslim Chaplain, University of Toronto

Natasha Persaud - Partner, Mushtaq Persaud LLP

Kerry Pither - Author

Gary Potter - Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

Mona Rahman - Term Adjunct Professor and Post-Doctoral Fellow, Queen's University

Syed Rahman - Lawyer

Salman Rana - Doctoral Candidate in Law, McGill University & Lecturer in Law, UOIT

Fred A. Reed - Author and Translator

Clayton Ruby, C.M. - Partner, Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan Barristers; Member of the Order of Canada

Kim Rygiel - Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

Riad Saloojee - Lawyer

Jennifer Selby - Associate Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Erika Shaker - Researcher and Writer

Zaib Shaikh - Actor, Writer, Director

Amer Shalaby - Professor, University of Toronto

Muhammad Sharayef - M.D.

Shahina Siddiqui - Social Justice Activist

Herveen Singh - PhD; Centre for Leadership and Diversity, OISE, University of Toronto

Walied Soliman - Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP

Mark Strong - Morning Show Host and Producer for G987FM

Itrath Syed - PhD Candidate, Simon Fraser University

Sumairah Syed - Lecturer, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Roch Tasse - National Coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

Lisa K. Taylor - Professor, Bishop's University

Mark Toulouse - Professor, University of Toronto; Principal, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto

Beatrice Vaugrante - Directrice Generale, Amnistie Internationale Canada (Francophone)

Fergus Watt - Executive Director, World Federalist Movement - Canada

Thomas Woodley - President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Janice Williamson - Professor, University of Alberta; Editor of Omar Khadr: Oh Canada

Ali Hassan Zaidi - Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

F. Zeenath Zeath - Barrister and Solicitor

Jasmine Zine - Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University


Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association

Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association

Downtown Muslim Professional Network

International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG)

Ligue des droits et libertés

Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law

*Individual signatories' employer or organization are listed for identification purposes only and do not reflect endorsement by the employer or the organization


Monsieur le Premier Ministre,

Nous, soussignés, vous demandons en tant que citoyens et organismes canadiens concernés, d’utiliser le plein pouvoir de votre bureau pour exiger la libération immédiate du résident permanent du Canada Khaled Al-Qazzaz, détenu illégalement en Egypte depuis plus de 365 jours sans accusation et qui court actuellement le risque d’une crise cardiaque. Il aurait dû être rapidement inculpé d’un crime reconnaissable ou relâché. Un an est passé, ce qui n’est pas une période courte. Sa détention illégale a en fait récemment été prolongée par une court égyptienne. Votre intervention est donc critique dans le but d’assurer sa relaxe immédiate et le retour sécurisé à son foyer au Canada.

Khaled est l’époux de la citoyenne canadienne Sarah Attia et le père de quatre jeunes Canadiens: Abdelrahman (8 ans), Amena (5 ans), Fatema (4 ans), et Tahrir (2 ans). Il a été arrêté le 3 juillet 2013, alors qu'il occupait le poste de conseiller de l'ancien président égyptien Mohamed Morsi qui, comme vous le savez, a été le premier dirigeant démocratiquement élu dans l'histoire de l'Egypte. Khaled est actuellement incarcéré dans l’aile Scorpion de la prison Tora au Caire, dans une cellule de la taille d'un placard à balai, sous sécurité maximale et sous une chaleur de plus de 45 ° C.

 La situation de Khaled est grave et urgente. En plus des conditions effroyables de son isolement, sa santé se détériore rapidement. Un rapport récent d'un médecin a révélé que son isolement a causé, et exacerbé, de nombreux problèmes de santé. Les conditions dans sa cellule causent des pressions sur les nerfs de son bras gauche, qui est devenu partiellement immobile. Les conditions de sommeil extrêmement difficiles ont abouti à des douleurs au genou qui pourraient conduire à une infirmité à long terme ou à la chirurgie. Les informations les plus récentes dont nous disposons au sujet de l’état de Khaled suggèrent une compression importante de la moelle épinière, ce qui lui cause un état de faiblesse grave. Si celle-ci n’est pas opérée par voie chirurgicale immédiatement, il peut en résulter une paraplégie. De plus,  son état de santé est aggravé par les températures extrêmes dans lesquelles il est détenu, qui lorsque combinées avec une humidité importante, causent épuisement par la chaleur et déshydratation grave pouvant conduire à une insuffisance rénale aigüe.

Comme vous le savez, la Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme stipule que nul ne peut être arbitrairement arrêté, détenu ou emprisonné. En outre, les normes internationales des droits de l'homme exigent que les détenus soient inculpés, jugés sans délai et qu’ils bénéficient d'un procès équitable.

Les droits fondamentaux de Khaled ont été violés pendant plus d'un an maintenant. Il n'existe aucune base juridique pour sa détention - il n’a été inculpé d'aucune infraction pénale ni autre reconnaissable. Autrement dit, il n'a pas été accusé d'un crime par un tribunal et n’a donc pas eu droit à un procès.

L'Egypte est en violation de ses engagements internationaux en vertu du Pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques; le Pacte international relatif aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels; l’ensemble de règles minimales pour le traitement des détenus adopté par le premier Congrès des Nations Unies en 1955; et les Principes fondamentaux relatifs au traitement des détenus adopté par l'Assemblée générale des Nations Unies en 1990.

Chaque nation a une obligation d'encourager les autres pays à respecter les lois et les normes internationales.

Cette affaire a reçu une attention publique et politique significative durant les six derniers mois. Ces faits sont devenus une question du domaine public. Nous avons joint une lettre de Khaled qui a été envoyée clandestinement de la prison et imprimée dans le New York Times le 28 Juin 2014. Dans ce document, Khaled explique la raison pour laquelle il a choisi de retourner en Egypte pour lutter pour son bien-être éducatif, social et économique. Il y  explique ses croyance, idéologie et motivations et se demande pourquoi le monde a été si silencieux sur son statut.

Nous croyons que le Canada ne peut plus rester silencieux.

Nous vous demandons maintenant, Monsieur le Premier ministre, de prendre des mesures rapides et significatives.

Nous vivons dans un pays dont l'engagement profond aux droits de l'homme a toujours été reconnu par la communauté internationale. C'est avec la connaissance et la fierté de cet engagement que nous élevons le cas de Khaled auprès de vous. Nous avons tout lieu de croire que vous resterez fidèles à notre fier héritage.

Monsieur le Premier ministre, nous vous demandons d'intervenir vigoureusement au nom de la femme de Khaled, Sarah, et leurs quatre jeunes enfants. En tant que Canadiens, ils attendent de vous que vous reconnaissiez ce cas comme une parodie de justice et que vous fassiez tout en votre pouvoir pour assurer son retour immédiat et réunifier Khaled avec sa famille.




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