Two Canadians held in Egypt for more than 50 days without charge were released early Sunday morning, according to the Canadian foreign affairs department.
John Greyson, a filmmaker and professor, and doctor Tarek Loubani were awaiting a flight home after being released from Tora prison, where they have been held since their arrest on August 16. The campaign for their release had garnered wide media attention globally.
Their lawyer, Marwa Farouk, told Reuters they were freed from jail at about 1 am on Sunday and were in the Canadian embassy a few hours later.
“The prosecutor general granted us the appeal I raised in court and they are already on a plane to Toronto,” she told Reuters.
Lynne Yelich, a Canadian minister of consular affairs, said on her Twitter account early Sunday that Canada welcomes their release. “We are facilitating their departure and Canadian officials will continue to offer consular services to them and their families as needed,” she wrote.
The two had landed in Cairo on August 15 with permits to travel onwards to Gaza, where Loubani was scheduled to teach a medical course and Greyson would work on a documentary of the trip. Loubani travels to Gaza every year to train emergency care physicians at Shifa hospital.
Two days after the violent dispersal of the sit-ins demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, the pair encountered the ensuing clashes that were taking place in Cairo. Hundreds were killed and countless arrests were made in the aftermath of the dispersal and the violence that broke in the following days.
Loubani and Greyson went to see the protests on August 16. When calls for a doctor were heard, Loubani started treating the wounded. They were both arrested at a checkpoint later that night.
A month after their arrest, they began a three-week hunger strike in protest of their detention without charge. They ended their strike this past Thursday. During their hunger strike, Loubani and Greyson smuggled out a statement in which they claimed to have been beaten during their detention.
The statement described what happened on the day of their arrest. “Tarek snapped into doctor mode … and started to work doing emergency response, trying to save lives, while John did video documentation, shooting a record of the carnage that was unfolding,” they said.
The two wrote in their statement that they were “arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries.”
Canadian foreign minister John Baird had warned Egypt that the detention was a significant threat to relations between the two countries, AP reported.