Two Canadians arrested in Egypt have been ordered detained for up to 15 more days without charge, leading to a new round of complaints from the Canadian government.
The federal government said on Monday that it believes physician Tarek Loubani of London, Ont., and Toronto filmmaker John Greyson were simply in the “wrong place at the wrong time” when Egyptian police arrested them on Friday.
But Egyptian news organizations reported on Tuesday that prosecutors have obtained an order to detain them for up to 15 days without charge, a development confirmed by a Canadian government official.
“We were disappointed to learn today that Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson will continue to be held in detention,” junior foreign affairs minister Lynne Yelich said in a statement. “The government of Canada is deeply disappointed by this decision as there continues to be a lack of evidence.”
Egyptian news media, including ONA news agency and the Al-Youm Al-Sabea newspapers, cited a release from a prosecutor’s office that said nine foreigners, apparently including the two Canadians, were being investigated for crimes ranging from threatening security and social peace to possession of firearms and explosives and belonging to an armed gang.
A friend of Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson, York University professor Justin Podur, said the statement was a transparent attempt to tar a group of unrelated foreigners – including citizens of Ireland, Turkey, Syria and Canada – with accusations. “It’s pretty preposterous,” he said.
Egypt’s ambassador to Canada, Wael Aboulmagd, said he had no information from Cairo on the accusations against the two Canadians, or whether their detention had been extended.
“We’re communicating with Cairo on a very, very regular basis, and we’re trying to obtain as much information as possible,” Mr. Aboulmagd said. “We’re awaiting the charges, if any. The facts that brought them to be arrested have to be verified.
“First and foremost, we’re assuring everyone that we’re fully committed to ensuring that they are treated properly.”
Ms. Yelich and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met on Tuesday afternoon with Mr. Aboulmagd, and according to Ms. Yelich’s statement, the two Canadian ministers pressed the ambassador for a “timely and positive resolution.”
The two men were in Cairo on their way to Gaza, where Dr. Loubani teaches emergency medicine, and Mr. Greyson was exploring a possible film project, Mr. Podur has said. They arrived in Cairo on Thursday, and learned the border to Gaza was closed, so they stayed in the Egyptian capital. They were arrested on Friday night.
A Canadian government source said that the two were on the streets of Cairo after curfew, near protests, and were arrested when they went to a police station to ask for directions to their hotel.