Ottawa calls on Egypt to release evidence against 2 Canadians arrested in Cairo
Published Sunday, August 18, 2013 8:31AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 18, 2013 11:49PM EDT
The Canadian government is calling on Egyptian officials to release all evidence against the two Canadians who were arrested in Cairo amid the ongoing violence and protests.
Minister of State for consular affairs Lynne Yelich said she spoke to a senior Egyptian official and has requested that a "confirmation of the nature of the charges" brought against Canadian filmmaker John Greyson and emergency room doctor Tarek Loubani be released.
"This afternoon, I spoke with a senior Egyptian official to request confirmation of the nature of the charges and call for all evidence against the two Canadians be released," Yelich said in a statement.
Greyson and Loubani, who were heading to Gaza via the Egyptian border prior to their arrest, are currently being held in Torah prison, located on the outskirts of Cairo, CTV News has learned.
It is the same prison where former president Hosni Mubarak is being held.
Earlier on Sunday, Deepak Obrai, a Conservative MP and the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, confirmed that consular officials in Cairo have seen the two men.
"Our officials have visited the two gentlemen who have been detained. We are in with contact with the families," Obrai told CTV News.
On Friday, Greyson, a Toronto-based filmmaker and a York University professor, and Loubani, an emergency room physician from London, Ont., were arrested in Cairo, according to their friend Justin Podur.
News of the arrests came after Podur, a professor at the faculty of environmental studies at York University, received a call from Loubani.
On his website, Podur said Loubani told him that "we are being arrested by Egyptian police."
During the call – which lasted approximately 10 seconds – Podur said his friend sounded "calm."
According to Podur, the pair was arrested at approximately 10 p.m. local time on Friday, which is after the imposed curfew time.
"We don't know what the charges could be against them … which is, of course, the case for hundreds of people right now," Podur told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
The families of both Greyson and Loubani released statements on Sunday regarding the two men's arrest.
"We are very concerned about John's safety," Greyson's family members, Cecilia Greyson and Stephen Andrews said. "We are confident that the Canadian Embassy in Cairo is doing everything they can to secure their immediate release."
Loubani's brother, Mohammed Loubani, said although he recognized that Egypt is "going through a painful transition," arresting a physician and filmmaker and detaining them "without due process is clearly a step in the wrong direction."
According Podur, Greyson and Loubani arrived in Egypt on Thursday, with the intention of going straight to Gaza via the border.
The men were travelling to Gaza to visit the Emergency Department of Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital, where Loubani has spent time training doctors as part of an ongoing project with the University of Western Ontario.
Greyson was going with Loubani in the hopes of researching a potential future film set in Gaza, he said.
"They were intending to go straight to Gaza, but because of all the unrest … the border crossing was closed," he said. "So they ended up staying in Cairo."
Podur said that the "best chance" for securing Greyson and Tarek's release will be if the Canadian government pressures Egyptian authorities.
"We really need the Canadian government to press as hard as they can for their release," he said.
Podur's call joins the chorus of Egyptian Canadians who are urging the Canadian government to take a stronger stance against Egyptian authorities.
Waleed Aboziad, an organizer of a Toronto demonstration of Egyptian Canadians, said the Canadian government should consider cutting military aid to Egypt in light of the violence that's killed at least 800 people.
"If there is any aid that (is) going to this illegal government, they should cut it for now," he said. "They can put some pressure on the government and say 'No, we don’t support killing people on the streets.'"
On Sunday, five days after clashes between Egyptian authorities and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi began, the country's top military leader said the army will not tolerate any new violence.
The Canadian government is reminding people to avoid all non-essential travel to Egypt and to avoid the protests.
With files from The Canadian Press