Canada PM urges Egypt to free detainees

Stephen Harper becomes latest official to call for release of two Canadians detained last month and held without charge.

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for the immediate release of two Canadians now on hunger strike after being held in Egypt without charges for six weeks.

    In the absence of charges, Dr Loubani and Mr Greyson should be released immediately.

    Stephen Harper, Candian prime minister

    But the men could be held for at least another 45 days, a relative of one of the men said on Monday.

    John Greyson is a Toronto film-maker and university professor, while Tarek Loubani is an emergency room doctor from London, Ontario.

    They were detained in mid-August soon after trying to enter Gaza, where Greyson was scouting for a documentary and Loubani planned to help train local doctors. They were turned back at the Gaza border and later arrested after a protest in Cairo.

    They began their hunger strike on September 15, according to Greyson's sister, Cecilia.

    "In the absence of charges, Dr Loubani and Mr Greyson should be released immediately," the Canadian prime minister's office said in an email to the AFP news agency.

    Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also pressed his Egyptian counterpart last week to release the pair.

    'Sleeping like sardines'

    But Egyptian prosecutors have extended their detention for an additional 45 days, the sister said in a statement posted on a website dedicated to freeing the men.

    In the absence of charges, Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson should be released immediately.

    Canadian prime minister's office

    Meanwhile, in an open letter smuggled out of prison and released over the weekend, Loubani and Greyson called conditions at Tora prison in Cairo "ridiculous."

    The pair described "sleeping like sardines on concrete with the cockroaches (and) sharing a single tap of earthy Nile water."

    They said they only meant to transit overnight through Egypt to get to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, but after the Rafah border closed, they decided to check out protests at Cairo's Ramses Square five blocks from their hotel.

    "The protest was just starting - peaceful chanting, the faint odor of tear gas, a helicopter lazily circling overhead - when suddenly calls of 'doctor,'" they wrote in the letter.

    Tarek "snapped into doctor mode" to treat a young man with a bullet wound being carried by others, while Greyson started filming "the carnage" that would soon follow.

    They said they started back to their hotel in the evening, but couldn't find a way through police cordons and finally asked for help at a checkpoint.

    Egyptian authorities also seized their camera gear, as well as routers and several toy-sized helicopters designed for transporting medical samples, which were meant for the hospital.

    SOURCE: AFP


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