Friday, June 27, 2014

My husband has been illegally held in an Egyptian prison for a year. Enough

In this open letter, I want to urge the prosecutor general to show the world he is on the side of justice and that Egypt is not lost – free Khaled Al-Qazzaz

Khaled Al-Qazzaz's children

Dear prosecutor general Hisham Barakat,

You don't know me; we have never met. But, as prosecutor general of Egypt, your actions have governed the lives of my family for the past 358 days. This week, when given the chance to grant my husband his freedom, you choose to continue an injustice that unlawfully returned him to prison.

My name is Sarah Attia. I am a Canadian-Egyptian and my husband,Khaled Al-Qazzaz, has been detained unlawfully for 358 days in Tora prison.

I spend each day with my four children stoking my hope into something fierce to sustain me for however long this nightmare will last. I live with the knowledge that my husband spends every second of his day in solitary confinement, boiling in an insect-infested cell that reaches temperatures of 45C.

In all, prosecutor general, you've dismissed 13 opportunities to show the world that Egypt is not a bastion for political treachery, that Egypt does not carry on farcical games of injustice masked as legitimate enactions of Egyptian law. Instead, in all the 13 times you could have released my husband, you chose to extend his time in prison. You chose to cement Egypt's reputation as an oppressive regime that flagrantly disregards human rights.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange, Code Pink and the United Nations Human Rights Council are all demanding Khaled's immediate release.

The world is paying attention. Their eyes are on you because my husband has been detained without cause. There have never been any charges brought against him. He has never been afforded a fair and balanced trial.

Khaled Al-Qazzaz

Khaled was arrested on 3 July 2013 – his 34th birthday – because he was a civil servant and staffer under Mohamed Morsi'sdemocratically elected government in Egypt. Khaled and I left Canada and came to Egypt because we wanted to make a difference. As one of Egypt's leaders, you are aware of the challenges the country faces. Khaled felt privileged by his Canadian and American education. He felt it was his responsibility to go back to Egypt and use his skills where they would have the most impact. He believed in Egypt.

With a master's degree in engineering, his ongoing doctorate in education through an American university, as well as his status as a permanent resident in Canada, my husband could have lived a comfortable life. In Egypt, Khaled chose to enter the field of education because he felt this was an essential service that would help the people of Egypt fulfil their potential. Khaled took the job in the presidential office when he realised that with this position, he would have the opportunity to advocate for the betterment of human rights and women's empowerment.

I supported him because he worked for values I believed in. He dreamed big. He wanted an Egypt where women would have opportunities to excel, where world conflicts could have peaceful ends. He was the best kind of dreamer – the kind of man who turned dreams into real and practical goals.

Today, my husband's health is failing fast. The severe conditions in Tora prison are notorious for causing permanent and even fatal injuries to its occupants. He occupies a cell that is built to break people down.

Last Monday, you ordered the release of Abdullah Elshamy and 12 other people. In a statement, you attributed the move to the "health conditions" of the defendants. I am relieved for Elshamy, his wife and his family, but that relief was short-lived. Just a short time later, you sentenced Canadian Mohammad Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and their fellow journalists to seven years in prison. I continue to fear the outcomes of an unjust trial against Khaled.

I want my husband to live again. I want our family to live beautiful lives once again. Next month, our youngest daughter will turn two.

Prosecutor general, send Khaled back into the arms of his family. The time to uphold the tenets of justice that Egypt aspires to is now. Every previous experience has seen an arbitrary and inhuman extension of my husband's term. But I cannot stop hoping that you will vouch for justice, that you will show the world that Egypt is not lost. The world is watching. Show the world that you are on the side of justice and grant Khaled his freedom now.