Greyson and Loubani thank supporters: 'We owe you our freedom'
Published Friday, October 11, 2013 6:11AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 11, 2013 9:08PM EDT
Two men detained in an Egyptian prison for seven weeks without being charged arrived in Toronto Friday night, saying they were “delighted” but “nervous to be home.”
Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson boarded a flight in Cairo to Frankfurt, Germany Friday morning and landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport shortly before 7 p.m. ET.
“We’re delighted to be here, to be free, we’re nervous to be home,” Loubani told reporters who had gathered at the airport.
“We’re home because of the work of many thousands of people from all walks of life, from all stripes of the political spectrum from Canada, from Egypt and from around the world. They were outraged at our arbitrary arrest and spoke out for our release. Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of them. Your hard work mattered. Your voice mattered, it made a difference. We owe you our freedom.”
The two men took turns reading a statement, thanking staff at the Canadian embassy in Cairo, their colleagues, friends, family and “ordinary citizens who spoke out,” Greyson said.
Loubani extended thanks “to all the politicians at all levels of government who worked tirelessly for our release,” listing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich by name.
The two men did not take questions from the media and were escorted out of the airport to waiting cars by police.
They said they would answer journalists’ questions “tomorrow.”
Greyson, a filmmaker and university professor from Toronto, and Loubani, a doctor from London, Ont., were arrested during a violent anti-government demonstration in Cairo on Aug. 16. The two were in the Egyptian capital while en route to Gaza.
They were accused of participating in the protests along with supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. But they say Loubani was helping to treat wounded protesters, while Greyson was recording the protest on video.
They were jailed in the notorious Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo for seven weeks without charge. They released a statement describing the crowded, squalid conditions of their detention and demanding their release.
Loubani said that “in hindsight, it’s really obvious that we made mistakes.”
“We thought our work on Aug. 16, mine as a doctor and John’s as a filmmaker, tending to the wounded and documenting their plights, we thought that that would mean that we wouldn’t be blameworthy in the eyes of the Egyptian authorities,” Loubani said. “We thought that working in a field hospital would give us a pass on what was to come. We were wrong.”
They lamented the ongoing turmoil in Egypt, and hit back at critics who questioned their political leanings.
“The overthrow of an elected government by a military is wrong. Killing civilians is wrong no matter who does,” Greyson said. “But believing in democracy, justice and fairness and the rule of law certainly does not make us members of the Muslim Brotherhood as some suggested. We are part of, instead, of civil society.”
In a statement issued as they left Cairo, the two men stressed that their thoughts continue to be with the 600 people who were also arrested in Cairo on Aug. 16.
"We make the same demand for them on day #54 of their detention that you made for us: Charge them or free them so they can have their day of hugs, tears and laughs soon, too."
On Thursday the two men received clearance to leave Egypt after their initial attempt was stopped due to their names being placed on a no-fly list immediately following their release from prison on Oct. 5. Egypt's foreign ministry said Thursday that accusations against them had been dropped.
Greyson said that despite their ordeal, “we’ll keep trying to make a difference.”