Canadians detained in Egypt are among nine foreign nationals held

OTTAWA – Egyptian news sources say two Canadians being detained in Cairo could be behind bars for more than two weeks while their case is examined.

Meantime, family members of both men have hired a lawyer in Cairo to aid in securing their release.

The ONA news agency reports that a judge has ordered the two men — along with seven other foreign nationals — held for 15 days pending an investigation by prosecutors.

The report says the men are among dozens accused of being involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, and of trying to storm a police station in Cairo’s Ramses Square.

Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and London, Ont., doctor Tarek Loubani were arrested by Egyptian police Friday when they were in Cairo on their way to Gaza.

Justin Podur, a friend of the two detained Canadians, calls the allegations against the men “far fetched.”

He notes that four of the foreign nationals, from Ireland, were arrested on Saturday, Aug. 17, when police raided the al-Fateh mosque.

“Tarek and John were already in custody at the time,” Podur said in a statement.

The Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspaper says the Canadians are being held along with the four Irish nationals, two Syrians and one person from Turkey.

Citing a prosecutor’s release, the newspaper says the nine face a range of serious accusations, including belonging to an armed gang, threatening security and social peace, disabling public transport and communications and possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives.

The Turkish national, reportedly photojournalist Metin Turan with the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, was detained on Aug. 14, said Podur, although Reporters Without Borders said he was detained Aug. 16 while covering the al-Fateh raid.

The two Canadians arrived in Cairo on Aug. 15, said Podur, and were arrested the following day.

“The prosecution’s press release is a clear attempt to put a group of foreigners arrested at different times and places into a single group to create a far-fetched story about foreigners to justify ongoing imprisonment,” he said.

“No allegations against John and Tarek have been relayed through consular officials or their Egyptian counsel. We continue to demand nothing short of their immediate release.”

The Harper government says it is doing everything it can to get the men released and to learn more about the charges that they face.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday he was “extremely concerned” about the safety of the two Canadians, but that Ottawa had not been told why they were being detained.

The Irish Times reported Tuesday that the Irish embassy in Cairo was granted consular access to four Irish siblings who were among those detained after security forces stormed the al-Fateh mosque, which became the focus of the latest episode in a bloody showdown between Egypt’s military-installed government and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The four Irish nationals had reportedly taken refuge in the mosque after taking part in demonstrations against the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

Canada’s junior foreign affairs minister, Lynne Yelich, has said it appears the Canadians were simply “two people … in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The Canadian ambassador in Cairo paid a visit Monday to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, demanding that Egyptian authorities explain the detentions.

About 900 people have been killed, including 100 police and soldiers, after authorities broke up Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo almost a week ago.