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Canadians jailed in Egypt have ended hunger strike, sources say

Undated photos of Toronto professor and filmmaker John Greyson, left, and London, Ont., emergency-room doctor Tarek Loubani. and

Two Canadians jailed without charges in a Cairo prison have ended their hunger strike, sources say.

John Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker and university professor, and Tarek Loubani, a London, Ont., emergency room doctor, have been incarcerated in Egypt since they were arrested in mid-August amid mass protests and violence after the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

Sources say the men began eating solid food again earlier this week.

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Their detention now dominates Canada-Egypt relations, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling this past weekend for the pair to be released immediately.

Mr. Greyson and Dr. Loubani began their hunger strike in mid-September to draw more attention to their plight in the weeks leading up to their 45 day of incarceration, when Egyptian authorities had to consider whether to release them or apply for further detention. Last weekend, prosecutors extended their jail stay for another 45 days as they continue to investigate.

The pair were among as many as 600 people detained during violent clashes in Ramses Square between Muslim Brotherhood supporters, the police and the army. They were arrested by Egyptian security on Aug. 16.

A Canadian government official said consular staff, accompanied by a doctor, visited them in the maximum security Tora Prison on Wednesday.

"It is our understanding that they appeared well," the Canadian official said.

Justin Podur, a friend, said the pair had planned to wind down the hunger strike after the 45th day of their incarceration if they were still detained.

Canadian ambassador David Drake held an hour-long meeting last week with the country's chief prosecutor to discuss investigations that may lead to charges against the pair, a spokesman for the general prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.

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Ahmed el Rakib provided no further details on whether charges will be brought against Mr. Greyson and Dr. Loubani. Canadian officials say the meeting took place on Sept. 26.

"Why don't you ask the Canadian ambassador?" Mr. El Rakib said when asked if he could speak about the case. "He met with the chief prosecutor for 60 minutes, and asked him many, many questions."

He declined to answer questions about the case, but added, "We have nothing to hide."

The two Canadians, along with hundreds of other prisoners, may face capital offence charges, including murder and attempted murder.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, Marwa Farouk, a lawyer representing the two Canadians, confirmed that they are being investigated not as individual cases but as part of a group of more than 600 people who were arrested during the same period.

Ms. Farouk is scheduled to visit the two men in Tora Prison for 30 minutes on Thursday.

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Judge Hisham Barakat was appointed prosecutor-general by interim President Adly Mansour on July 10, one week after the overthrow of Mr. Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader.

Mr. Barakat is the former head of the technical office of the Cairo Court of Appeals.

The chief prosecutor's office is in Egypt's High Court on Ramses Street, a short drive from al-Fateh mosque in Ramses Square, the scene of running battles and a standoff between pro-Morsi protesters on Aug. 16, the night Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson were arrested.

The High Court is a massive, neoclassical building, with soaring ceilings and marble floors. Two tanks are parked in front of the main entrance, intended to send a strong message to would-be protesters.

The exterior walls and main doors of the High Court are graffiti-strewn, a reminder of Egypt's three years of upheaval and protest. A constant stream of lawyers, citizens and police enters and passes through a broken security scanner. Uniformed and plainclothes security make random searches of briefcases and bags. A dozen police conscripts in black uniforms and carrying truncheons lounge in the entryway. High on one of the foyer's tall marble columns, two small video cameras are trained on the entrance.

It is inside this building that charges may be laid against the two Canadians now held in Tora Prison.

Carol Berger is a freelance writer.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More


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