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Thirteen Canadians who work with an Alberta-based humanitarian organization are among 15 people detained in Ethiopia, the charity said Saturday.

Canadian Humanitarian said a group of 10 Canadian volunteers, three Canadians on staff and two Ethiopian staff members were in custody in the African country on allegations they were practicing medicine without permission and had dispensed expired medication.

The charity disputes those allegations.

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“We are vigorously defending the actions and decisions of our team knowing that every decision was made by highly trained and certified Canadian medical professionals and that their mission on this trip was to provide essential medical care to the citizens of Ethiopia who need it most,” Canadian Humanitarian said in a statement on its website.

It said the group is made up of doctors and other medical professionals who jump through every possible bureaucratic hoop to provide care.

“Just like all of our trips, our team and organization followed all necessary steps and protocols to ensure our group had all permits needed to provide medical support and care while in Ethiopia,” the charity said.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of the expiry of the medication, we can with confidence say that all medicine and care offered by our team was safe.”

Canadian Humanitarian said it’s working with Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia to resolve the issue.

“We are working hard to resolve this as quickly as possible, ensure the fair and humanitarian treatment of our team in accordance with internationally recognized laws, and expediate their safe return to Canada,” the statement reads.

Global Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Canadian Humanitarian is described as a registered charity based in Medicine Hat, Alta., which sends volunteers abroad to provide medical and dental support, along with other humanitarian services.

“The group of volunteers currently detained are in Ethiopia to offer these services to our various local partner communities, with whom we have had long-standing, positive, and collaborative relationships for over 15 years,” the statement reads.

“We trust the integrity of these positive relationships with both local and national authorities to ensure the best and quickest resolution to this situation.”

The charity said it would not be commenting further to protect the privacy of those involved.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2020.

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