Calls for professors' freedom grow louder

By Adela Talbot
October 02, 2013

As protests, rallies and letters calling for the freedom of Western professor and London physician Tarek Loubani and York University professor and filmmaker John Greyson continue to fall on deaf ears in Egypt, supporters at home are urging the Canadian government to take a stand, pleading for the direct intervention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper issued a statement Sunday saying, “in the absence of charges, (they) should be released immediately.”


Loubani and Greyson have been held in Egypt’s maximum security Tora prison since Aug. 16, without charges. Last week, Egyptian officials announced the men would be held for an additional 45 days, pending an ongoing investigation, potentially facing a number of serious charges, among them murder, an “intention to kill,” aiding and abetting murder, and “using explosives against the Azbakiya police station” in Cairo.


Friends, family and colleagues at home have vehemently denied all allegations against the men, noting their dedication to humanitarian work, even in the face of personal dangers.

The pair was arrested en route to Gaza at a time of intense violence in Egypt. Loubani had previously initiated a medical mission in a Gaza hospital and was returning to continue its work, while Greyson planned to film the mission.

An account of Loubani and Greyson’s experience in prison, sent to relatives and released last week, noted the men couldn’t cross the border to Gaza because of the ongoing violence in the area. Unable to cross, they visited the demonstrations where Loubani tended to wounded protestors while Greyson filmed the demonstrations.

In the letter, the men explain the deplorable conditions in which they’ve lived for more than a month, noting that:

… 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 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 men are being urged to start eating again, after being on a hunger strike for more than two weeks.

Liberal foreign-affairs critic Marc Garneau said Monday Harper and the Canadian government are doing everything possible to help Loubani and Greyson, while NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, who has been in touch with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the Egyptian ambassador, has pressed for the men’s immediate release.

“Canada — including Harper — should continue to intervene on a direct and personal level with Egyptian authorities to advocate for their release,” Dewar said in an email this week.


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