Canadians held in Egypt launch hunger strike to protest ‘arbitrary’ detention

Two Canadian men who have been held in an Egyptian prison for more than 30 days have launched a hunger strike to protest their ongoing detention.

Filmmakers John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani began refusing food on Monday to express outrage at "the arbitrary nature of their detention by Egyptian authorities," according to a press release.

“We can only imagine the anguish that John and Tarek feel after realizing that their detention could be extended for so long in what can only be described as an arbitrary process that lacks any credibility,” said sister Cecilia Greyson.

“We know that they did not take the decision to begin a hunger strike lightly, and we want them to know we will do everything we can to support them and get them home soon.”

[ Related: Canadians detained without charge in Egypt face further jail time ]

Greyson and Loubani were arrested and detained in Cairo on in mid-August during a time of heightened tension between Egyptian officials and the public.

Hundreds protesters were arrested the same night for breaching a government-imposed curfew.

The two men stopped in Egypt en route to Gaza, where Greyson was preparing to shoot a documentary. The pair has said they were arrested after stopping at a police station to ask for directions to their hotel. But they are being treated as if they were participating in protests organized by the Muslim Brotherhood.

They continue to be held, although no charges have been laid against them. They were to be held for 15 days before charges would be laid. But that original detention period has now been extended twice.

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Junior foreign affairs minister Lynne Yelich has said the government is concerned for the pair and is appealing to the Egyptian government for their release.

Their detention drew the attention of a collection of film industry heavyweights attending the Toronto International Film Festival last week.

A rally is being organized at the Egyptian Consulate in Montreal on the afternoon of Sept. 24.

“The Egyptian authorities seem to be sending the message that Egypt is not a safe place to travel to, that if you go there, you can be jailed for a long time and with no recourse,” said Justin Podur, a friend of the pair.

“We want to send the message that we will not forget our friends, and we will not settle for anything less than their immediate release.”

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