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News / August 19, 2013

Concern Grows As Canadian Artist John Greyson Detained in Egypt

John Greyson speaking at the Berlinale in 2011 John Greyson speaking at the Berlinale in 2011

Over the past few days, concern has grown about Canadian artist John Greyson, an award-winning filmmaker and professor at Toronto’s York University, who has been detained by Egyptian authorities in Cairo since August 16.

As the CBC and other sources have reported, London, Ontario, emergency-room doctor Tarek Loubani was travelling with Greyson and has also been detained.

This afternoon, Minister of State for Consular Affairs Lynne Yelich released a statement indicating that she believes the case is one of “two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“We are deeply concerned about the cases of Mr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson,” Yelich said in the release. “Canada has been working at the highest levels to request confirmation of the nature of the charges and call for all evidence against the two Canadians to be released.”

Yelich stated she could not say more “due to the privacy and security concerns of the two men involved.”

Justin Podur, a York University associate professor and a friend and colleague of Greyson’s and Loubani’s, says he got a call from Loubani on Friday about the arrest. He has been following the situation closely since then and been pushing for more information about their case alongside Greyson and Loubani’s family members.

“We’re pretty much dependent on the consular staff,” Podur tells Canadian Art. “As soon as the work day starts [in Cairo on Tuesday morning] we’re going to hire a lawyer there to represent them, and hopefully that lawyer can go the prison and begin to communicate with us.”

Podur noted that although consular staff had hoped to see Greyson and Loubani today, they were not successful. Consular staff were able to successfully visit the pair in detainment yesterday, however.

According to Podur, both men were on their way to the Gaza Strip—Loubani in order to continue a medical collaboration at Gaza’s largest hospital and Greyson to work on a film project in the region—when they were arrested.

A group called the Free Tarek and John Coalition has created an online petition and Facebook group calling for the pair’s release.

“What the families are asking for is that all pressure be applied on the Egyptian authorities, like the Egyptian consulate in Montreal, and demand their immediate release,” says Podur.

York University chancellor president and vice-chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri also issued a statement today, saying that “We are in contact with Canadian government officials about the detainment of the two men and to offer our support for their safe return. Our thoughts are also with their families and friends at this time.”

Last week, hundreds were killed in Egypt as troops stormed protest camps and a curfew and state of emergency was declared. Among those killed in the ensuing violence was Toronto resident Amr Kassem.

In her statement, Minister Yelich said that “we urge Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to Egypt.”

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor of white settler Canadian (Irish and Ashkenazi) descent. She is also news and special sections editor at Canadian Art and has written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. Sandals welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.