'Hi, it's John ...' Freed from Egyptian prison, Canadian phones home

John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani released from Cairo jail

TORONTO – A relative of one of the two Canadians freed from an Egyptian prison cell says the pair are waiting for paperwork to be cleared up before they can return home.

John Greyson’s sister Cecilia says he and Doctor Tarek Loubani are currently safe and sound in a hotel following their surprise release Sunday after a seven week stint in a Cairo prison.

Cecilia Greyson says that while the men have their passports there’s still some “red tape” that must be dealt with before they can finally leave Egypt.

She says consular officials are working with the men to speed up their return to Canada, a process she expects could take days.

It appears the red tape was sticky enough to prevent the pair from leaving Sunday, according to a report from The Associated Press.

The AP reported the two Canadians tried to board a plane to Frankfurt, Germany but were prevented after their names appeared on a “stop-list” issued by prosecutors, attributing the information to airport officials.

Greyson and Loubani retrieved their luggage and were free to leave the airport, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Despite the hitch in their departure, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he remains optimistic the two Canadians will soon be coming home.

“It’s now our view at the moment, based on what we know, that this is just a case of lack of clarity and co-ordination within the bureaucracy,” Harper told a media briefing in Bali, Indonesia where he`s attending the Asia-Pacific leaders summit that begins Monday.

“So we’re optimistic it will be resolved in the very near future, but obviously we’ll continue to focus on this until it is resolved and we see these Canadians back in the country,” he said.

Greyson and Loubani were arrested Aug. 16 during violent anti-government demonstrations in Cairo and detained in what they’ve called squalid conditions.

Cecilia Greyson said her brother, a Toronto based filmmaker, and Lubani, an emergency room physician from London, Ont., had no clue they were going to be let go when their cell door swung open on Sunday.

“They just got a knock on the cell door and they were just sort of shuffled out of the cell,” she said her brother told her in a telephone call immediately after he was released.

“He actually thought they were changing cells or going to a different prison. So he was as surprised as anyone else about their release.”

Cecilia Greyson said when the phone rang she had no idea it was her brother calling.

“I think he just said, ‘Hi, it’s John,’ and I sort of screamed and started to cry.”

Greyson and Loubani were accused by authorities in Cairo of joining in an attack on a police station, but they were never charged.

Egyptian officials have not commented on what was behind their decision to free them.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.