Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied on Tuesday that detained Canadian nationals Tarek Loubani and John Greyson were arrested under the emergency law, adding that they are being investigated in accordance with the Egyptian Penal Code.
Loubani and Greyson have been in Tora prison since 16 August, having been arrested following deadly clashes around Ramses Square when they asked police for directions. They claim they were en-route to Gaza for the former to continue his work with Gazan physicians and the latter to make a short film about the medical project.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the ministry said the detainees face the official charges of “participating in violent demonstrations and resisting security forces.” It added that the Prosecutor General’s office is conducting investigations into the detainees’ case, having ordered their detention until investigations are over, and the detention “will be renewed as deemed necessary for investigation purposes.” Prosecution extended Loubani and Greyson’s detentions for 45 more days on Sunday.
Adam El-Shalakany, an associate from the Shalakany Law Office, which is handling Loubani and Greyson’s case, said on Sunday that the detainees have not been charged because the prosecution is still building a case. He said they, along with over 140 others also arrested on 16 August were originally facing a “bundle of accusations, including murder, conspiracy to murder, thuggery, violence, incitement to violence and destruction of public buildings.”
The ministry stated that after the police searched the detainees’ hotel room; they found detailed video recordings and photographs taken during the clashes, which took place around Ramses Square. It claimed that “two small helicopter surveillance drones” were also found in the hotel room.
A website run by friends and family published a statement from Loubani and Greyson, in which they described their arrest and the “ridiculous” conditions they have been subjected to in prison. They reported that during their arrest, they were carrying portable camera gear and hospital equipment, which included ‘’two disassembled toy-sized helicopters for testing the transportation of medical samples.” They added that during the clashes in Ramses Square, Greyson was shooting a video, “a record of the carnage that was unfolding.”
According to Loubani and Greyson’s story, they were arrested before they got the chance to return to their hotel room.
The ministry said the Prosecutor General’s office “strongly denies” the defendants’ allegations regarding their subjection to torture, beating or mistreatment.
“The highest standards of human rights are being observed and fully respected,” the statement read. It added that no formal complaint was submitted by the detainees or their legal representatives regarding the alleged assault.
In their statement, the detainees said they were “arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist’, slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald [and] accused of being foreign mercenaries.” They called for “due process” and demanded they be released.
Canadian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich said on Sunday that Canada is “disappointed” with the decision by an Egyptian court to extend Loubani and Greyson’s detention.
The Egyptian foreign ministry said in its statement the Canadian Ambassador to Egypt David Drake met with the Prosecutor General who explained that the “case was being investigated in due process.”
“The case [of the Canadian detainees] falls within the competence of the Egyptian judicial system,” the statement read. “The system is an independent authority that carries out its work without answering to any other party and without any interference.”
Loubani is an emergency doctor and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Western University in Canada. He is also a member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and had worked in Gaza to provide Advanced Cardiac Life Support training to Gazan doctors.
Greyson is an award winning filmmaker and a professor in the film department at York University in Toronto.