Canada asks Egypt to release jailed nationals

Ottawa, Sep 11 (IANS) Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has asked Egypt to release two Canadians — a filmmaker and a physician — imprisoned in a Cairo jail for 25 days.

Filmmaker John Greyson and physician and university professor Tarek Loubani were arrested Aug 16 in the Egyptian capital while they were en route to Gaza where Loubani planned to train emergency-room doctors and Greyson, also a film professor at Toronto’s York University, accompanied him to research a film in the region, Xinhua reported.

Both men were accused – along with other foreign nationals including four siblings from Ireland – of aiding members of the Muslim Brotherhood in an attack on a police station and of possessing arms and explosives.

Canadian officials and Greyson’s sister Cecilia Greyson believe the Canadians were at the wrong place at the wrong time when the border to Gaza was closed.

The arrested people reportedly went to a police station in Cairo asking for directions and got caught up in mass arrests of anti-government protesters.

Since then, Canadia has been working at “the highest levels to confirm the specific charges against them”, Baird said in a statement issued jointly with Lynne Yelich, minister of state for foreign and consular affairs.

“As we have not yet received confirmation of the charges, Canada calls for their release,” he said.

Canadian consular officials have been regularly meeting Greyson and Loubani, who are reportedly “not in bad shape”, Cecilia Greyson told CBC News in Canada.

Their lawyer is scheduled to meet Wednesday the Egyptian prosecutor handling their case.

On Tuesday, their plight was also highlighted at the Toronto International Film Festival, where a statement signed by 311 academics, filmmakers and artists, including Academy Award winning stars Ben Affleck, Frances McDormand, Charlize Theron, Julie Christie and Colin Firth, called for the immediate release of Greyson and Loubani.

“We are very, very worried about both of them,” said Canadian Oscar-nominated director Atom Egoyan at a news conference in Toronto.

Over 110,000 people have signed an online petition at change.org, calling for their release.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said his government was “extremely concerned” about their safety.

IANS 2013-09-11 10:12:05

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