UPDATED! Tarek and John in their own words

Updated by Wayves Volunteer 29/09/2013

Photo shows one of several demonstrations held recently in cities across Canada challenging both the Egyptian and Canadian governments to do more to secure the two men's release from jail.

By Wayves Volunteer

UPDATE: According to a report released on CTV News around 11:30 AM on Sunday, September 29, Egyptian prosecutors have ordered Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson be held in detention for an additional 45 days. The two were arrested in Cairo on August 16 and have been in prison since then. The CTV report states that Halifax resident Cecilia Greyson, John Greyson's sister,  "says an Egyptian prosecutor issued the order the same day the pair marks their first 45 days in prison. ... Cecilia Greyson said lawyers working for the jailed Canadians told her the extension applies to everyone who was arrested during protests in the Egyptian capital that day.

"Egyptian prosecutors have accused Loubani and Greyson of "participating with members of the Muslim Brotherhood" in an attack on a police station, but the pair and their supporters insist they were just passing through on their way to Gaza.'" (CTV News)

Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson were detained in Cairo on August 16, seven long weeks ago. Since their arrest, they have been held without charge in a Cairo prison, with their detention routinely extended by Egyptian authorities every 15 days. Dr. Loubani is a well resprcted emergency room physician and John Greyson is one of Canada's leading filmmakers (Zero Patience, Lilies, Fig Trees) with an international reptation. Both men have strong ties to Atlantic Canada. Dr. Loubani is a native of Bathurst, New Brunswick and Greyson's sister lives in Halifax. His films have frequently been creened at the Atlantic Film Festival.

Dr. Loubani has been regularly volunteering to assist emergecy room physicians in the Palestinian city of Gaza; Greyson was accompanying him to make a documentary film about his work there. They were in Cairo trying to get into Gaza, but were delayed by the protests and state of emergency following the ouster of the Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. Two weeks ago, after a French citizen had been beaten to death in his prison cell, and in protest against their unlawful treatment and detention, Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson began an ongoing hunger strike.

On September 28, suppoters of Loubani and Greyson released this statement, along with a declaration from the two men:

Impending Charges? Tarek and John in their own words

We have held on to this statement out of fear that the Egyptian authorities would harm Tarek and John if we released it. But given the announcement of impending charges in the Toronto Star, we think that their own words can explain what the “evidence” the Egyptian authorities claim to have is. We believe that the impending charges have much more to do with what Tarek and John witnessed on August 16th, rather than what the Egyptian authorities claim they did.


“We are on the 12th day of our hunger strike at Tora, Cairo’s main prison, located on the banks of the Nile. We’ve been held here since August 16 in ridiculous conditions: no phone calls, little to no exercise, sharing a 3m x 10m cell with 36 other political prisoners, sleeping like sardines on concrete with the cockroaches; sharing a single tap of earthy Nile water.

“We never planned to stay in Egypt longer than overnight. We arrived in Cairo on the 15th with transit visas and all the necessary paperwork to proceed to our destination: Gaza. Tarek volunteers at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, and brings people with him each time. John intended to shoot a short film about Tarek’s work.

“Because of the coup, the official Rafah border was opening and closing randomly, and we were stuck in Cairo for the day. We were carrying portable camera gear (one light, one microphone, John’s HD Canon, two Go-Pros) and gear for the hospital (routers for a much-needed wifi network and two disassembled toy-sized helicopters for testing the transportation of medical samples).

“Because of the protests in Ramses Square and around the country on the 16th, our car couldn’t proceed to Gaza. We decided to check out the Square, five blocks from our hotel, carrying our passports and John’s HD camera. 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. The wounded and dying never stopped coming. Between us, we saw over fifty Egyptians die: students, workers, professionals, professors, all shapes, all ages, unarmed. We later learned the body count for the day was 102.

“We left in the evening when it was safe, trying to get back to our hotel on the Nile. We stopped for ice cream. We couldn’t find a way through the police cordon though, and finally asked for help at a check point.

“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. 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 bootprint bruise on his back for a week.

“We were two of 602 arrested that night, all 602 potentially facing the same grab-bag of ludicrous charges: arson, conspiracy, terrorism, possession of weapons, firearms, explosives, attacking a police station. The arrest stories of our Egyptian cellmates are remarkably similar to ours: Egyptians who were picked up on dark streets after the protest, by thugs or cops, blocks or miles from the police station that is the alleged site of our alleged crimes.

“We’ve been here in Tora prison for six weeks, and are now in a new cell (3.5m x 5.5m) that we share with ‘only’ six others. We’re still sleeping on concrete with the cockroaches, and still share a single tap of Nile water, but now we get (almost) daily exercise and showers. Still no phone calls. The prosecutor won’t say if there’s some outstanding issue that’s holding things up. The routers, the film equipment, or the footage of Tarek treating bullet wounds through that long bloody afternoon? Indeed, we would welcome our day in a real court with the real evidence, because then this footage would provide us with our alibi and serve as a witness to the massacre.

“We deserve due process, not cockroaches on concrete. We demand to be released.

“Peace, John & Tarek”

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are interested in supporting efforts to free Tarek and John, there are a number of things you can do. Vist this website, Free Tarek Loubani and John Greyson for more information. This page has a number of suggestions on precisely how you can help, including signing a petition alongside 140,000 others. Nobody should have to suffer in this way, including the many Egyptians being similarly detained. Freeing Tarek and John can be a positive step for advancing the human rights for Egptians as well.

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