A Sydney father who was arrested while taking his family on a holiday to Egypt in January is being held in prison for liking a Facebook post almost a decade ago.
Waled Youssef, 45, is a dual Australian and Egyptian citizen who runs a cement rendering business in Sydney after migrating to the country in his mid-twenties.
He has spent the past eight months locked up in a Cairo prison, labelled the worst in the Middle East, with more than a dozen cell mates as the deadly COVID pandemic rages through the facility.
Waled Youssef, 45, is a dual Australian and Egyptian citizen who runs a cement rendering business in Sydney after migrating to the country (pictured with wife Fadia)
They have two young boys who have returned to Australia with Mrs Youssef (pictured)
His lawyers, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinsony, have publicly called on Scott Morrison to abandon ‘quiet diplomacy’ and apply pressure for Mr Youssef’s release.
‘Mr Youssef is unlawfully detained in Tora Prison in a squalid cell he shares with 17 others,’ his lawyers told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘Mr Youssef’s detention is not only unlawful, but life-threatening. There have been numerous reports of COVID-19 deaths in Tora, including three prisoner deaths in the past fortnight, and the death of a prison officer,’ they said.
The prison is where Australian journalist Peter Greste was held for more than a year before being released after international pressure.
Mr Youssef’s wife Fadia and their two young sons were forced to return to Australia and have not been able to return to Egypt because of travel bans, leaving the family distraught. ‘
‘My husband is in prison for allegedly liking an innocuous Facebook post years ago. He’s done nothing wrong, but he is being kept in prison where people are dying of COVID. We are terrified he will get sick and not be able to come home.’ Mrs Youssef said.
His lawyers say Egyptian authorities case on Mr Youssef is based on him liking a Facebook post by a former political candidate in 2012.
The former candidate has also been imprisoned by the Egyptian government in the years since his campaign.
Security officers patrol one of the gates of Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison (pictured)
The detention, they claim, is a violation of international law and they have also called on United Nations special rapporteurs and a working group on arbitrary detention to take action.
An appeal to release Mr Youssef was denied in January and a second appeal in March postponed because of coronavirus.
His detention has been extended on six occasions without reasons given, his lawyers claim, with another hearing scheduled for October.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has said they are aware of the case with the Australian Embassy actively working on the matter.
‘Our embassy in Cairo is regularly engaging with Egyptian authorities, including to seek more regular consular access, and is continuing to follow the case very closely. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment,’ a spokeswoman said.
A campaign has been launched to try and get Mr Youssef (pictured) back to Australia