A list in Arabic of alleged offences – including murder – that was signed by a Canadian jailed without charges in Egypt is evidence of the coercion he faces, his sister says.
Separately on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he’s warned Cairo that Canada-Egypt relations are being jeopardized by the Mideast country’s decision to jail John Greyson and a fellow Canadian for nearly seven weeks without laying charges.
Mr. Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker and university professor, has been incarcerated in an Egyptian prison for nearly seven weeks along with Tarek Loubani, a London, Ont., emergency room doctor.
Last weekend, prosecutors extended the pair’s detention for up to 45 more days as they continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding their arrests, which took place during mass protests and violence following the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
Mr. Greyson cannot read Arabic, according to his sister, Cecilia Greyson, but affixed his thumbprint and signature to a blanket list of allegations levelled by prosecutors against him.
The same allegations were made against Mr. Loubani and many Egyptians rounded up by authorities Aug. 16.
“This indicates the level of duress that they were under that they were being forced to sign documents that, in my brother’s case, are in a language he doesn’t understand,” said Ms. Greyson, who lives in Halifax.
“We know that they were without lawyers, were without translators, had no contact with loved ones or lawyers during this point. And we know that during that arrest, when that document was issued and signed, they had been beaten and interrogated.”
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Mr. Baird appeared to be feeling pressure to demonstrate Canada’s efforts on this matter.
After he spoke, the government circulated a list of 20 actions it has taken in support of Mr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson – phone calls, letters, diplomatic meetings, statements – and said Ottawa had requested a consular visit with the pair this week.
“The government is doing absolutely everything it can to secure their release and let’s hope these efforts will meet with success,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.
“We’ll be watching very closely in the coming days.”
Mr. Baird, who met with Egypt’s foreign affairs minister last Friday, said he’s warned Cairo of how serious Ottawa takes the matter.
“I stated in no uncertain terms this was a significant problem in our bilateral relations,” the minister said.
“It is simply unacceptable that Canadians can be held for this long with no specific charges, no specific evidence.”
He said he felt he’d gotten his message across.
Canada-Egypt relations were chilly during Mr. Morsi’s term in office, but had showed signs of improving early in the summer.
The two capitals have very different perspectives on the incident, according to one person familiar with discussions between Ottawa and Cairo.
Egypt’s authorities view the pair as merely two of the more than 600 arrested in what security forces consider a massive incident, which included bloody clashes with protesters in Ramses Square and attacks on a nearby police station.
For Egypt’s security forces, it was a major event and suspicions ran high.
The hundreds of suspects, including a number of foreigners, were all informed they were under investigation for a long list of misdeeds that occurred that night, and none have been released since.
In Egypt, people can be detained without charge while an investigation is under way.
The Canadians are being held in Tora prison, south of Cairo, where they have been on a hunger strike.
The pair say they had stopped in Cairo in mid-August en route to Gaza, where they had planned to make a short film about humanitarian relief efforts.
On Aug. 16, however, they were arrested after they witnessed a protest that turned deadly, as dozens of dissenters were shot.
Egypt is trying to build a case against the two Canadians and hundreds of other prisoners rounded up at the same time.
On September 28, the two men released a statement through supporters describing their arrest.
“Tarek snapped into doctor mode… trying to save lives, while John did video documentation, shooting a record of the carnage that was unfolding. Between us, we saw over 50 Egyptians die… ”
The statement adds that, hours later, they tried to get directions from police back to their hotel.
But instead, 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.”
With a report from Campbell Clark