After seven weeks in an Egyptian prison, Tarek Loubani and John Greyson have returned home to Canada to find themselves once again under fire. Reporters have accused the men of having political motivations for their imprisonment.
The pair were arrested and imprisoned without being charged in Cairo on Aug. 16 following their involvement in a protest. Loubani and Greyson were released from prison on Oct. 5 and left Egypt for Canada on Oct. 11.
Upon arriving, the men extended thanks to all those who helped to facilitate their safe return.
“We’re home because of the work of many thousands of people from all walks of life, from all stripes of the political spectrum from Canada, from Egypt, and from around the world,” said Loubani in a statement. “They were outraged at our arbitrary arrest and spoke out for our release. Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of them. Your hard work mattered [ . . . ] We owe you our freedom.”
Loubani and Greyson were reportedly attempting to bring medical equipment to a hospital in Gaza when they were arrested for taking part in an illegal protest. Loubani had responded to cries of “doctor” from wounded protesters, and Greyson attempted to film some of the violence.
Over 600 individuals were arrested during the protests on Aug. 16, including Loubani and Greyson. The two were held in Tora Prison just outside of Cairo. They claim that whilst there they were housed in extremely unpleasant conditions with dozens of other men, to have had no access to a phone, and to have been beaten.
Now back in Canada, the men are facing a new assault – this time headed by the domestic media. Reporters have criticized Loubani and Greyson’s personal politics as being influential in their imprisonment.
The Globe and Mail suggested that the men were portrayed “as innocents abroad, humanitarian do-gooders who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The report claimed the men “are hard-core anti-Israel activists who’ve been mixed up in Middle East politics for years,” and suggested that “they should have known what they were getting into.”
According to the Globe and Mail, Greyson’s leadership of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and past history of anti-Israel demonstrations is evidence of his knowledge of potential risks he faced travelling to Egypt. The report also cited Loubani’s arrest in Israel 10 years ago and subsequent imprisonment as proof of his history of “grandstanding.”
Sun News questioned the equipment the men had brought along, asking whether remote control helicopters and GoPro cameras were necessary for the trip, and what their true motives were for being in Egypt.
Greyson responded to critics, saying, “The overthrow of an elected government by a military is wrong. Killing civilians is wrong no matter who [is responsible]. But believing in democracy, justice and fairness and the rule of law certainly does not make us members of the Muslim Brotherhood as some suggested. We are part of, instead, of civil society.”
In response to the accusations, Loubani admitted their mistake in judgment.
“We thought our work on Aug. 16, mine as a doctor and John’s as a filmmaker, tending to the wounded and documenting their plights, we thought that that would mean that we wouldn’t be blameworthy in the eyes of the Egyptian authorities. We thought that working in a field hospital would give us a pass on what was to come. We were wrong.”
Canadian Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular) Lynne Yelich welcomed the men home. Yelich further thanked the government of Egypt “for its considerable assistance in [the] matter and for providing regular consular access.” Prior to the Canadians’ return, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, told Egypt that the imprisonment of Greyson and Loubani was “a significant threat to relations between the two countries.”
Once they were home and free for the first time in seven weeks, Loubani and Greyson eagerly looked forward to reconnecting with their families. They emphasized that their thoughts remain with the other individuals who were also arrested in Cairo on Aug. 16 and remain imprisoned.
“We make the same demand for them on day 54 of their detention that you made for us: charge them or free them so they can have their day of hugs, tears and laughs soon, too.”