Two Canadians have been released from an Egyptian prison
Article: Alec Salloum – News Writer
John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani have been released from Egyptian prison, after 51 days of detention. The pair was traveling through Egypt on their way to the Gaza Strip where Dr. Loubani, originally from London, Ontario, was returning to a post where he taught emergency room doctors and nurses. Greyson, a filmmaker, was along to document Loubani’s work in the region.
Their ordeal began in August, when the pair landed in Cairo with the intention of heading east towards the Gaza Strip. They were traveling to the region in a time of turmoil, as President Mohamed Morsi had been removed from office via coup d’état on Jul. 3, 2013. The ensuing months were rife with chaos and violence, Greyson and Loubani were aware of the risks. In an interview with CTV, Greyson said, “It’s our job as a doctor and a filmmaker… it’s what we do.” Both had worked previously in the region.
August saw continued unrest in Egypt, and Cairo was the epicenter. On Aug. 14, which has since become known as the time when the August Raids occurred. In Cairo, Egyptian security forces attacked two encampments of pro-Morsi supporters. This resulted in numerous, but statistically conflicting, casualties. The Egyptian Health Ministry reported 638 deaths. The Muslim Brotherhood and Anti-Coup Alliance, a coalition established to resist the coup, which ousted Morsi, claimed at least 2,600 had died. Regardless, this was bloodiest day since the beginnings of the revolution in 2011. The day claimed the lives of several journalists, both domestic and foreign and resulted in a month long state of emergency with a rigidly enforced martial law.
The region’s unrest had resulted in a closure of the Gaza-Egypt border, which led Greyson and Loubani to Cairo solely for a place to stay until it reopened. Once in Cairo, the two purportedly attended rallies and sit-ins, though this is unconfirmed.
[pullquote]“It’s our job as a doctor and a filmmaker… it’s what we do”[/pullquote]
On Aug. 16, the peaceful pro-Morsi protesters at Ramses Square and the Fateh Mosque were fired upon by Egyptian soldiers. Greyson and Loubani were either in attendance or nearby, though sources vary on this detail. As victims of the attack began fleeing, Loubani began tending to the wounded with Greyson in tow, filming their ordeal and giving what assistance he could. Approximately 600 protesters were killed in this encounter.
After this brutal encounter, the two left Ramses Square and mistakenly asked police for directions. That day they become two of the 602 people taken prisoner under martial law. Their footage, ties to Gaza, and the fact that they were helping pro-Morsi supporters seemed to seal their fate. One source reports that Egyptian television claimed them to be members of Hamas, an Islamic Military Organization and ruling force in Gaza.
They initially assumed that their detention would last 24 hours as no charges had been laid. Unfortunately, it lasted much longer, 51 days in total. The two were subjected to regular beatings and abuse while imprisoned in the notorious Tora Prison. Tora houses Egypt’s highest profile criminals, terrorists, and enemies of the state. It is also allegedly a CIA Black Site.
Greyson explained that they “were beaten on the day of arrival. It’s standard in Tora prison.” This treatment was consistent over the entire course of their stay, receiving daily beatings for a crime they hadn’t committed and hadn’t even been accused of.
Despite the atrocities they faced, Loubani explained that they were exceptionally fortunate. As of Oct. 16, 61 days after their imprisonment, they are the only two of the 602 taken prisoner on Aug. 16 to be released.