Arbitrary detentions in Egypt: A regression in human rights

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The conditions of their imprisonment are horrific enough but it is the nature of the arbitrary detention of Canadians John Greyson and Tarek Loubani - no charges, wild allegations and an indifference to international pressure that has human rights advocates raising wider concerns.



"I think the thing that Canadians have got to know is the Prime Minister has directed we bring all resources to bear, to resolve this as expeditiously as possible. Our ambassador in Cairo has met with the Attorney General, we're making representations on their behalf with the prosecutors. We've also, on the political track, through our ambassador in Cairo, through the Egyptian ambassador here, we've had a significant number of contacts.Ten days ago I spoke directly with the new Egyptian Foreign Minister and stated in no uncertain terms that it is simply unacceptable that Canadians can be held for this long with no specific charges, no specific evidence".

John Baird, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he has warned Egypt that its relations with Canada are being jeoparidized with the continued detention of John Greyson and Tarek Loubani in a Cairo prison cell. The pressure hasn't loosened their bonds much. Mr. Greyson and Dr. Loubani have been detained without charge since mid-August. The men were on route to Gaza where Dr. Loubani volunteers at a hospital. John Greyson planned to document his work in a film. On a stop in Cairo, they say they ended up watching at a protest in Ramses Square


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"We've been held here in ridiculous conditions: no phone calls, no exercise, sharing a 3m x 10m cell
with 36 other political prisoners, sleeping like sardines on concrete with the cockroaches; sharing a
single tap of earthy Nile water". - Excerpt from John Greyson and Tarek Loubani's statement

According to a statement released by the two men, Dr. Loubani began to help injured people as Mr. Greyson filmed the scene. They were arrested on the way back to their hotel and on the weekend, their detention was extended by another 45 days.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for the release of the two men in the absence of charges. Though his supporters do not want to see charges at all.

Doctor Amit Shah is a colleague of Tarek Loubani and one of the people trying to secure his and John Greyson's release. Doctor Shah was in London, Ontario.

We requested interviews with Minister Baird, the Junior minister for Foreign Affairs, Lynne Yelich and Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. No one was available.

Bessma Momani tracks this issue and she believes Canadian diplomats have a little clout right now. She's an Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo and a Senior Fellow at the Centre For International Governance and Innovation and The Brookings Institution:  

"The Canadians haven't been able to put a lot of pressure on the Egyptians and it shows that we have very little leverage as a result of a lack of foreign trade ties, foreign aid ties. Just overall political and diplomatic relationship with the previous Muslim Brotherhood government was almost non existent. It really shows today where Canadian government has very little leverage to free these two individuals."

Bessma Momani, Sr. Fellow at the CIGI

Amnesty International says in the last 3 months, nearly 3,000 people attending demonstrations supporting the former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have been detained and more than 2,000 remain in custody.

Heba Morayef is the Egypt Director of the Middle East and Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. We reached her in Cairo.

We requested an interview with the Egyptian Ambassador in Canada - Wael Ahmed Kamal Aboul-Magd but we were told he cannot comment at this time.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath and Sujata Berry.

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