TORONTO – A friend of two Canadians who were arrested in Cairo says consular staff told him the pair were fine but still hadn’t heard if they were being charged.
Justin Podur said that Canadian consular staff told him they had seen Toronto based filmmaker and York University professor John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor in London, Ont.
The pair were being held in a Cairo prison.
The two Canadians were in the Egyptian capital en route to Gaza when they were arrested by police amid the deadly turmoil affecting the country’s capital, said Podur, who is a friend and colleague of both men.
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.
Lynne Yelich, the minister of state for consular affairs, issued a statement Sunday evening saying she was very concerned about the arrests and has demanded more information.
“I spoke with a senior Egyptian official to request confirmation of the nature of the charges and call for all evidence against the two Canadians be released,” the statement said.
Podur said that consular staff informed him they would be checking on the two Canadians again on Monday.
Earlier Podur said he was “very much” concerned about his friends’ safety.
“They’re in an Egyptian prison in one of the worst weeks in Egyptian history,” said Justin Podur.
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.