CAIRO – Two Canadian academics who were detained for seven weeks have been released from an Egyptian prison, Canadian officials announced.
But for now the two men are trapped in the country, as they are still on a “no-fly” list. And the Egyptian prosecutor-general’s office has reportedly said they are still under investigation for cooperating with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Canadian Minister of State Lynne Yelich said in a statement that Canada welcomes the release of doctor and assistant professor at Western University, Tarek Loubani, and filmmaker and an associate professor at the Department of Film at York University, John Greyson.
Both have been held since mid August. They faced allegations of participating in demonstrations in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, as well as charges ranging from murder and arson to attacking a police station, Reuters reported.
“I look forward to Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson being reunited with their families and friends, who have shown tremendous strength during this difficult time,” Yelich said.
“Minister Baird and I were in contact with senior Egyptian officials on numerous occasions concerning this case, and the Embassy of Canada to Egypt worked tirelessly to secure their release,” the statement said.
Loubani and Greyson were in Cairo in August on their way to the Gaza Strip. Loubani planned to volunteer at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, and John intended to shoot a short film about his colleague’s work. But when they were forced to remain in Cairo overnight due to political unrest that prevented them from heading to Gaza, they went to demonstrations in Ramses Square where people gathered in support of Morsi.
“We decided to check out the Square, five blocks from our hotel, carrying our passports and John’s HD camera,” the pair said in a statement last week. “The protest was just starting – peaceful chanting, the faint odour of tear gas, a helicopter lazily circling overhead – when suddenly calls of ‘doctor.’ A young man carried by others from God-knows-where, bleeding from a bullet wound. Tarek snapped into doctor mode…and started to work doing emergency response, trying to save lives, while John did video documentation, shooting a record of the carnage that was unfolding.”
When they left that day, they stopped at a military checkpoint to ask for directions back to their hotel. “That’s when we were: arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist’, slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries,” their statement said.
“Was it our Canadian passports, or the footage of Tarek performing CPR, or our ice cream wrappers that set them off? They screamed ‘Canadian’ as they kicked and hit us. John had a precisely etched boot-print bruise on his back for a week.”
The men were two of 602 arrested that night, they said in the statement.
In an effort to secure their freedom, Loubani and Greyson went on a hunger strike on Sept. 16, ending it earlier this week, according to a website started by supporters who have been pressing for their release.
“We are facilitating Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson’s departure from Egypt, and Canadian officials will continue to offer consular services to them and their families as needed,” Yelich said over the weekend.