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TIFF Stars Call For The Release Of Two Canadians Imprisoned In Egypt
September 10, 2013
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Filmmaker Atom Egoyan and John Greyson's sister Cecilia Greyson spoke at a news conference Tuesday, demanding that Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson be released by the Egyptian government. The men have been held in Cairo since Aug. 16. (Jessica Wong/CBC)

Earlier today, Sarah Polley, Atom Egoyan, Michael Ondaatje and others held a press conference to put out an open letter demanding the release of filmmaker John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani, two Canadians who were arrested in Cairo on August 16.

The pair were in Cairo en route to Gaza, where Loubani was planning to train emergency doctors, work that Greyson intended to film. The two were caught in the midst of the violent riots that shook the city following the military takeover in June. They have yet to face any charges in connection with their arrest.

At the press conference, Egoyan, a long-time acquaintance of Greyson, said "We're demanding that he be released and be allowed to do what he does best, which is express his profound humanitarian concerns." TIFF artistic director Noah Cowan joined the artists at the conference, and emphasized the festival's role as a place where ideas can be freely exchanged — a mission that he says is jeopardized when artists' voices are silenced by imprisonment.

Here's the open letter, which was signed by 311 writers, filmmakers and actors, including Ben Affleck, Errol Morris, Charlize Theron, and Alec Baldwin:

As members of the international cultural and academic communities, we call for the immediate release of our peers, Prof. John Greyson, and his colleague Dr. Tarek Loubani, from custody in Egypt. John Greyson is a renowned artist whose films have screened at over 500 festivals around the world and garnered prizes at Berlin, Locarno, San Francisco, Johannesburg and Toronto, among others. He has received the Bell Canada Award, the highest national honour for lifetime contribution to video art. In 2012, the Toronto International Film Festival honoured him with a retrospective, and this spring McGill-Queen's University Press published an anthology celebrating his contribution to Canadian and international cinema. John is a tenured professor in the film department of York University, Toronto, where he is a well-loved teacher and mentor.
Prof. Greyson was arrested in Cairo on his way to make a film in Gaza with Dr. Tarek Loubani, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, London, Ontario. Dr. Loubani has for the last two years conducted an academic and medical collaboration between Western University Hospital's emergency department and the al-Shifa Hospital, the main hospital in the Gaza Strip. This project has seen Canadian doctors train Palestinian physicians in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS). With each visit Dr. Loubani has brought witnesses to observe conditions in Gaza. This year he invited Prof. Greyson. On arriving in Cairo on Friday, August 16 they found the border to Gaza shut. They were arrested the next day while asking for directions at a police station.
We are respectfully asking the Egyptian authorities to release Prof. Greyson and Dr. Loubani.

For more information on the campaign, see the Free Tarek Loubani and John Greyson website and this Change.org petition.

Via CBC News

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