TORONTO – A friend of two Canadians who was one of the last people they contacted before being arrested in Cairo says he’s “very much” concerned about their safety.
“They’re in an Egyptian prison in one of the worst weeks in Egyptian history,” said Justin Podur.
The pair were in Cairo en route to Gaza when they were arrested by Egyptian police amidst the deadly turmoil affecting the country’s capital, said Podur, who is a friend and colleague of the Canadians.
Podur says the two are Toronto based filmmaker and York University professor John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor in London, Ont.
Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Caitlin Workman confirmed that two Canadians have been arrested and says Canada’s embassy in Cairo is in contact with local authorities and is providing consular assistance, however, she says privacy concerns prevent her from releasing any further information.
Podur says Western University in London, Ont has a collaboration program that brings doctors to Gaza to train doctors there and advance cardiac and trauma life support.
He says Greyson was travelling to explore the possibility of making a documentary about Al Shifa hospital in Gaza.
The two professors arrived in Cairo on Aug. 15 but their journey to Gaza was delayed due to unrest.
“Given all the unrest it was quite problematic and dangerous to travel to the border,” Podur says and adds “across the Sinai is dangerous, the border crossing itself is dangerous.”
Podur says they were arrested around 10 p.m. on Friday, which is after a curfew currently imposed in Cairo, but Podur was uncertain whether they were picked up with several hundred others arrested for being outside after curfew or whether it was for another reason.
He said the last he heard from them was a phone call from Loubani saying they had been arrested by the Egyptian police.
Cairo has been the centre of escalating protests by supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi. The unrest has seen hundreds of people killed and injured.