TORONTO — The family of a Toronto-area resident who had been detained in Egypt without charge says the man has returned to Canada.
Khaled Al-Qazzaz — a permanent resident of Canada and a University of Toronto engineering graduate — was once an aide to Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi and was arrested alongside the former leader in July 2013, when the Egyptian military removed Morsi from office.
After an ordeal that lasted three years, Al-Qazzaz was abruptly cleared to return to Canada last month and landed in Toronto on Aug. 14, his brother-in-law said.
"He's overwhelmed with joy and emotion, and with finally the opportunity to start fresh, to have a complete family again," Ahmad Attia told The Canadian Press in an interview. "It's still becoming a reality for us."
Al-Qazzaz was never charged, nor did Egyptian authorities explain exactly why they had arrested him.
The 37-year-old was initially held incommunicado for more than five months, his family said, with Egyptian authorities not acknowledging he was in custody. He was then held in solitary confinement in a small, cramped cell until he was transferred to a hospital in Cairo in late 2014 due to his deteriorating health, the family said.
He was released from custody in January 2015 and was set to return to Canada in April that year but was stopped at Cairo's airport and told he couldn't leave.
His approval to travel to Canada last month came suddenly, Attia said.
"We don't know what triggered it but we believe it's the combined effect of the advocacy and the voices who were speaking out here in Canada, the human rights groups who kept up on the case and the Canadian government, who more recently took some actions on raising the case with the Egyptian government," Attia said.
A recent visit by Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion to Egypt is thought to have been particularly helpful, Attia added.
"Our family owes many thanks to thousands of Canadians and we are very grateful to the honourable minister Dion and his office for championing our case," he said.
Egyptian authorities allowed Al-Qazzaz to return to Canada on medical and humanitarian grounds, Attia said.
Al-Qazzaz chose to return quietly because he, his Canadian wife and their four children wanted privacy as they began a transition back to normal life at their Mississauga, Ont., home, Attia said.
Al-Qazzaz now plans to get medical treatment for a severe spinal condition and eventually plans to return to working in the education field.
"Our campaign to free Khaled ... was our life, so to be able to close it and move on is very emotional," Attia said. "We're just very grateful to everyone who never gave up."