The sudden arrest and incarceration of two Canadians travelling through Egypt have foreign affairs officials and family members concerned for their safety, as threats against outsiders become common amid the bloody standoff between military and protesters in the country.
Doctor Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson were arrested this weekend while in the capital Cairo during a crackdown by the Egyptian military amid a deadly standoff with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, who strive to return deposed president Mohammed Morsi to power.
Canadian officials said they have been in contact with the men in a Cairo prison but have not been told what the pair is being charged with.
"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," reads a statement by Lynne Yelich, the minister of state for consular affairs.
"Canadian officials are also in contact with local authorities to receive more information on the nature of these charges."
The two Canadians were apparently in Egypt en route to Gaza, mutual friend Justin Podur wrote in his blog. Their families have expressed concern about their well-being.
The pair was arrested after a 10 p.m. curfew imposed in the capital, Hundreds of citizens were arrested for breaching curfew that night. But CTV News reports that the Canadians were not arrested at a demonstration, but after stopping at a police station to ask for directions to their hotel.
John Greyson is a Toronto-based filmmaker who also teaches film at York University. According to his online biography, Greyson is the recipient of the Toronto Arts Award and the Bell Award in Video Art.
He became widely known in 2009 after criticizing the Toronto International Film Festival for celebrating films from Tel Aviv. Greyson withdrew his own film from the festival, criticizing Israel's settlement strategy in Gaza.
York University released a statement on Monday, expressing their concern over Greyson's situation and offering support to the family and friends of both men.
Tarek Loubani is an emergency room doctor from London, Ont., who, Podur writes, was travelling to Gaza on business.
“Tarek was continuing a medical collaboration that has been established between the University of Western Ontario and the Emergency Department of Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital, while John was conducting preparatory work for a film project in Gaza,” Podur wrote in a post on Sunday.
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The arrests come during a horrific time in Egypt, where citizens and the military clash amid the crash of the country's flawed democratic system. Hundreds of people have been killed or injured in the struggle.
Among the dead is Amr Kassem, 26, a permanent resident of Canada. Kassem was shot by a sniper last week as his Toronto-based family was visiting relatives in Egypt.
Fresh reports suggest that deposed president Hosni Mubarek, on trial for the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising, could be released from prison. This would do little to calm the country as it struggles to find a democratic alternative to his regime.
Canadian officials have urged Egyptian factions to sit down and end the deadly standoff; although, at this point it does not appear foreign intervention will carry much sway.
The New York Times reports that officials in the current military-supported government are upset at how foreign press has failed to depict the conflict as a war against violent terrorists. Dozens of foreign journalists have been attack or detained since the announcement.
Canadian officials have said they will remain in contact with Loubani and Greyson during their incarceration.
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