John Greyson and Tarek Loubani: ‘In hindsight, it’s really obvious we made mistakes’


TORONTO – Two activists woke up in Canada on Saturday after seven weeks in an Egyptian prison, admitting on arrival they had made many mistakes but expressing delight at being home again.

Facing a crush of media, family and supporters, John Greyson and Tarek Loubani gave thanks to those who helped win their freedom minutes after their flight from Cairo touched down Friday evening, but they also delivered a pointed political message.

“We call out the collusion of Western powers, seemingly unwilling to denounce military violence against peaceful citizens, and perhaps, most crucially, on the ongoing role of billions in U.S. military aid (that is) helping return Egypt to a nightmare of military dictatorship,” Greyson said.

The duo said they would answer questions on Saturday. Instead they tag-teamed on a 10-minute statement in the international arrivals hall at Pearson International airport.

The two said they had only planned to stop overnight in Cairo on their way to Gaza.

They said they believed that documenting the anti-government violence that erupted in the Egyptian capital Aug. 16 and tending the wounded would not arouse the wrath of authorities.

“In hindsight, it’s really obvious we made mistakes,” said Loubani, an emergency-room physician from London, Ont.

“We thought we could avoid the violence that continues to tear Egypt apart,” added Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker. “We were wrong.”

Instead, they found themselves swept up in mass arrests and imprisoned in cramped conditions. They said they were beaten and forced to sleep on the concrete with cockroaches.

They were also wrong in thinking they would be accorded due process, Greyson said.

“Believing in democracy, justice, and fairness, and the rule of law certainly does not make us members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as some suggested,” Greyson said.

Badr Abdel-Atty, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the two were accused of participating in illegal protests or resisting authorities during arrest in the midst of a protest by supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

However, Abdel-Atty said Thursday the accusations against them had been dropped and the pair were cleared to leave Egypt.

Family and supporters had mounted a relentless campaign to have the Canadians freed and the pair spent several minutes thanking them.

“We want to thank our friends, our families — those people who stood by us were steadfast in their belief that we were innocent,” Loubani said.

“Your hard work mattered, your voice mattered, it made a difference, we owe you our freedom.”

Greyson and Loubani said they had learned lessons from their experience — some hard and some surprising.

Among them was how 38 men from all walks of life could get along in a three-metre by 10-metre cell.

They also said they had learned that a military overthrowing an elected government is wrong, as is the killing of civilians.

They learned some practical things during their imprisonment such as how to make a jailhouse kettle out of “two nails, two bottle caps and some wire,” Loubani said.

They learned to make an alcoholic drink out of macaroni and sugar: “Incredibly strong — just boil it, let it ferment for three days.”

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and other government officials waged an aggressive campaign for their release, which came last weekend.

But they were prevented from immediately boarding a flight out of the country after their names appeared on a “stop-list” issued by prosecutors.

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John Greyson and Tarek Loubani: ‘In hindsight, it’s really obvious we made mistakes’

  1. Depite their good intentions, it appears they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. BTW, I wonder, are the other 36 “swept up” still there?

    • They went to the wrong place deliberately, and chose the wrong time deliberately.

      • Deliberate certainly, but it does not invalidate my comment about the wrongness of both.

        • Usually that phrase ‘wrong place wrong time’ implies unfortunate happenstance. Like being on the highway just where the avalanche strikes.

          And they had no ‘good intentions’. They were there to participate. You don’t go to riots as a tourist.

  2. I wish someone would ask them whether they’d rather spend a weekend in an Egyptian jail or in an Israeli jail.

    • Funny you ask that. Loubani has been in both. So he would know. He also lied about being brutally beaten in the Israeli jail. Now he has repeated the same lies with the Egyptians. He also played the stupid game of the hunger strike. He also played that same game again with the Egyptians.

      “Ten years ago, he was arrested by the Israelis in the West Bank and
      jailed for a few days, along with other protesters. Then, as now, he
      smuggled a message out of jail (it didn’t seem to be that hard),
      claiming that he’d been brutally beaten. He also staged a hunger strike
      as supporters back in Canada lobbied the government to intervene.”


      Greyson was also nearly arrested by Israeli forces when he too part in the Gaza flotilla, an attempt to break the Egyptian/Israeli blockade.

  3. It does not take ‘hindsight’ to see the mistakes.

    I’ve encountered three riots in my life, and immediately walked away from them, not into them.

  4. So, is Maclean’s ever going to inform their readers that the pair were carrying surveillance equipment including miniature drones, and they gave the ridiculous explanation that the surveillance equipment was for medical purposes?

    Will Maclean’s ever tell their readers that Loubani previously spent time in an Israeli jail, and during that time he falsely lied about being beaten? During that time he also played the game of the hunger strike. Will Maclean’s provide this background?

    Even in this report, there is no mention of their previous claims that they were being beaten. What happened to that?

    Almost every detail released about their incarceration has been false.

    Originally they claimed they were arrested in a police station when asking for directions, while out on a walk while not knowing about the curfew imposed by the police.

    Later it come out that they knowingly approached an ongoing protest (called the “day of rage”) by the Muslim Brotherhood that escalated into violence. Loubani treated wounded demonstrators while Greyson recorded the unrest on video. They were arrested after leaving the scene of the protests. They were found to have been traveling with surveillance equipment that included miniature drones.

    The coverage of this story by Maclean’s has been shameful and deceptive, not to mention anti-Egyptian.

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