Two Canadians – an emergency-room physician and a filmmaker – are being held in an Egyptian prison amid the ongoing protests and deadly turmoil in the country's capital.
Tarek Loubani, a doctor from London, Ont., and John Greyson, a filmmaker and professor at York University, were en route to Gaza when they were arrested in Cairo by Egyptian police on Friday, said friend Justin Podur. Mr. Podur said he received word Sunday from consular officials that they had managed to visit the two men in prison.
"They told the consular staff to tell us that they're okay. It's a huge relief. But their families and I are still stressed because we want to know why they're being held and we want them released," said Mr. Podur, a professor in the faculty of environmental studies at York University.
A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs confirmed that two Canadians have been arrested. Caitlin Workman said Canada's embassy in Cairo is in contact with local authorities and is providing consular assistance. "I'm afraid that in order to protect the private information of the individuals concerned, additional details cannot be released," she said in an e-mail.
Cairo has been the centre of protests by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi. The unrest has seen many people killed and injured. A permanent resident of Canada married to a Canadian was killed in anti-government protests last week.
Mr. Podur said he last heard from Dr. Loubani Friday afternoon when the pair were being arrested. The phone call lasted less than 10 seconds, he said.
The two men arrived in Cairo late last week. Mr. Podur said they were going to travel by land to Gaza, but the route had been blocked and their journey was delayed because of the unrest.
Dr. Loubani is among a group of Canadian doctors who travel to Gaza to train physicians there in advanced cardiac and trauma life support, Mr. Podur said. Mr. Greyson was travelling alongside to explore the possibility of a film project about the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, Mr. Podur said. Both men are engaged in social and political issues, Mr. Podur said.
"Their plan was to go to Gaza, and they got caught before they could travel. They got caught up in this thing and were arrested by the Egyptian authorities," Mr. Podur said.
The families and friends of both men are anxious. "We're worried about their condition," he said. "It's a huge concern to have them in an Egyptian prison in this context where all these things are going on in Egypt."