Egypt-held Canadians' friend wants more Ottawa pressure

A spokesman for the families of two Canadians held in Egypt since mid-August is calling on the federal government to step up pressure to bring about their release.

Report says Egypt considers murder charges against jailed John Greyson, Dr. Tarek Loubani of Ontario

Tarek Loubani, seen at left, and John Greyson, seen at right, have been detained without formal charges in Egypt since Aug. 16. (Canadian Press)

A spokesman for the families of two Canadians held in Egypt since mid-August is calling on the federal government to step up pressure to bring about their release.

Justin Podur was discussing the arrest in Cairo of filmmaker John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani, who have been in jail since Aug. 16.

Their detention came amid bloody clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted prime minister Mohammed Morsi.

Egyptian authorities have yet to lay formal charges against the men, and on Sunday their imprisonment was extended for 45 days.

The family has released a statement decrying conditions inside the prison, saying the men have been beaten and are living in cockroach-infested cells with no access to clean drinking water.

MP Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday.

Obhrai said Canadian consular officials have told their Egyptian counterparts that the men should be released unless the authorities can file “credible, transparent charges that will withstand scrutiny of international law.”

“Our opinion is that these two individuals were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Obhrai told host Matt Galloway.

However, Podur, a family friend who has been posting updates on his blog, said that approach has him worried.

“It’s an invitation for the Egyptian authorities to invent charges against Tarek and John,” he said.

Podur also said the federal government needs to put “other elements of the Canada-Egypt relationship on the table,” such as trade and economic aid.

Obhrai said consular officials have been allowed to make regular visits to Greyson and Loubani. He also said Baird met with his Egyptian counterpart on Friday at the UN in New York and pressed for the men to be released.

A Toronto Star story published Tuesday said Egyptian authorities are considering a list of charges, including murder and “intention to kill,” against the pair. However, Obhrai said he didn’t have any information about the contents of the Star story.

Cecilia Greyson, John's sister, said family members are frustrated with the process. She said the family has worked to provide documentation proving the men were in Egypt to work.

“We’ve had increased detention with no charges. It’s just this nightmare for us, trying to go through this system," she said.

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