Despite ongoing diplomatic pressure, Canadian filmmaker John Greyson and doctor Tarek Loubani remain under arrest and detained in Egypt’s Tora prison.
Supporters of the men have hired lawyer Adam Khaled El Shalakany, managing partner with Shalakany Law Office in Cairo, to represent Greyson and Loubani.
Canadian consular staff, a doctor and a lawyer from the firm met with Greyson and Loubani for about 30 minutes on Aug 22 at the Cairo prison, which has long been condemned by human rights groups for the alleged abuses carried out there.
Greyson and Loubani are reported to be in “good health” and “good spirits” — even though they are being held in an overcrowded prison cell.
“We are very relieved to learn that John and Tarek are in good health and good spirits,” reads a written statement on Aug 23 issued by a coalition of friends and family working to secure their release. “But the prison is heavily overcrowded, and they are sharing a cell with several other people. As well, they have been unable to be outside during their entire incarceration, due to safety concerns with the instability in Cairo right now.”
Greyson and Loubani were arrested on Aug 16 and incarcerated under a 15-day detention order issued by Egypt’s public prosecutor. No formal charges have been laid.
The men are scheduled to face a hearing, accompanied by their lawyer, on Aug 28.
Under Egyptian legal procedures, the prosecutor may at that hearing ask to renew the 15-day detention period for further investigation.
In an interview with the CBC, Shalakany says he’s working with Canadian consular officials to gather documentation to show that Greyson and Loubani were in Egypt with “no bad intention or criminal intent.”
Greyson and Loubani were in Egypt en route to Gaza. On what Shalakany described as a “very bloody day” in Egypt, exactly what happened in the hours leading up their arrest is not completely clear. It appears that during the chaotic and violent unrest taking place in Cairo, they were swept up in a dragnet of foreigners arrested around curfew time and in close proximity to ongoing protests. They were arrested when they stopped at a police station to ask for directions to their hotel.
Supporters are buoyed by the fact that the detention order was issued by the prosecutor, not a judge.
“These are not formal charges, and this 15-day detention order is also not a jail sentence – it is just a detention order pending investigation. There is absolutely nothing precluding Tarek and John’s release on any day of this 15-day period.”
In this Daily Xtra video interview from Aug 20, Elle Flanders, Greyson's long-time friend, discusses events leading to the pair's imprisonment and gives an update on their condition and efforts to free them.
The Egyptian Cinematic Syndicate has also filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office and is waiting for a reply.
“Two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time," is how Lynne Yelich, Canada’s minister of state for foreign affairs and consular, described the situation.
“We were disappointed to learn [Aug 20] that Dr Loubani and Mr Greyson will continue to be held in detention . . . as there continues to be a lack of evidence. Canada will continue to engage with the highest levels until this matter is resolved.”
Close to 70,000 people have signed a petition at change.org.
For more information, visit Free Tarek & John at tarekandjohn.com.