Two Canadian academics, an emergency-medicine doctor and a filmmaker, were arrested in Cairo two weeks ago, apparently swept up in the security forces’ crackdown on supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The men have been held in prison since then, with no telephone contact with the outside.
A hearing was scheduled for Thursday, August 29, but the prosecutor did not show up, and a new hearing has not been scheduled.
Tarek Loubani and John Greyson arrived in Cairo the day before they were detained, Friday, August 16. They were en route to an emergency clinic at the Al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Loubani, 32 years old, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Western Ontario, helped start a project between the University of Western Ontario and El Shifa hospital in Gaza two years ago. The program brought doctors from the University of Western Ontario to train Gaza physicians.
John Greyson, 53, a filmmaker and associate professor who teaches film studies at York University and is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Toronto, was accompanying Loubani to work on a documentary about the program.
The Friday the men were arrested, known as the Day of Rage, security forces clashed with Morsi supporters who poured into the streets to protest the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins earlier that week. The Canadian men’s timing was extremely unlucky.
“They were in downtown Cairo on Friday, which was a very bloody day in our history,” said Khaled El Shalakany, a lawyer who represents them, in interview with Canadian television, CBC News.
According to a letter protesting the arrests from the Middle East Studies Association to the Egyptian Prime Minister, the men got lost in Cairo and went to a police station to ask for directions to their hotel. But instead they were detained. Dr. Loubani called a contact in Canada and left only a short message: “We are being arrested by Egyptian police.”
Egypt’s military, in a broader sweep-up operation and mass arrest of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, ordered a state of emergency nationwide on August 14. The military-led government also temporarily closed off the border with Gaza. Border crossing had been made easier during the Morsi government when the Muslim Brotherhood was outspoken in its support of Hamas. Hamas is an Islamist organization that is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, with an associated military wing that won elections to the Palestinian Parliament in 2006. The Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip was reopened last week, but the two Canadians remain in prison.
“Canada remains deeply concerned about the cases of Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson and we are disappointed that the hearing scheduled for today did not take place,” said Lynne Yelich, Canada’s minister of state in a statement on Thursday. “As we have not yet received confirmation of the charges, the Government of Canada calls for their release.”
Over 90,000 supporters have signed a petition to release the two men on Change.org, addressed to Canadian officials and the Egyptian ambassador to Canada, Wael Aboul-Magd.
“We recognize that Egypt is going through a painful transition,” said Mohammed Loubani, Loubani’s brother, in a statement. “But arresting a physician and filmmaker and detaining them without due process is clearly a step in the wrong direction.”
An e-mail requesting comment sent to Egypt’s ministry of interior, the country’s police authority, was not returned.
On Thursday, an Egyptian and a regional human rights group issued a joint statement condemning a “human rights crisis in Egypt” and calling on the Arab League to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the use of force.
“Continued dominance of security rhetoric and considerations will lead to further bloodshed and undermine opportunities for democratization, respect for human rights, and the achievement of social justice,” according to the statement issued by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “This will in turn give rise to a social, political, and religious climate that fosters violence and terrorism.”