Canadians arrested in Egypt during a 'very bloody day'

The two Canadians detained in Egypt were arrested during "a very bloody day" in the country, the spokesperson of the law firm representing the pair said.

Dr. Tarek Loubani of London, Ont., and John Greyson of Toronto have been jailed since Friday

CBC News speaks with Cecilia Greyson, whose brother is 1 of 2 Canadians being held in an Egyptian prison 8:23

The two Canadians detained in Egypt were arrested during "a very bloody day" in the country, according to a spokesperson for the law firm representing the pair.

John Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker, and Tarek Loubani, a London, Ont., doctor, were arrested in Egypt last Friday while passing through Cairo on their way to Gaza.

"They were present at the area where there was a lot of violence from both the Muslim Brotherhood and, of course, the security forces," Khaled El Shalakany, managing partner of the law firm representing the two men, told CBC News Wednesday afternoon.

"They were in downtown Cairo on Friday, which was a very bloody day in our history."

Loubani was going to Gaza to train emergency room doctors. Greyson was accompanying him, hoping to make a documentary.

An Egyptian judge on Tuesday ordered the two men to remain behind bars for another 15 days pending an investigation.

Shalakany added that the two men were arrested after curfew. However, Greyson’s sister Cecilia Greyson told CBC News in an earlier interview that the pair were arrested at a police station where they were asking for directions so they could return to their hotel.

Serious allegations

According to a document from the Egyptian prosecutor, Greyson and Loubani, along with seven other foreign nationals, face a range of accusations, including:

• Belonging to an armed gang.

• Threatening security and social peace.

• Disabling public transport and communications.

• Possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives.

Cecilia Greyson called the document misleading as it lumps his brother and Loubani with other foreign nationals without naming them.

"The document did not identify any of these individuals, so nowhere in the document did they identify John and Tarek," she told CBC News Wednesday morning. "It appears to be this sort of blanket statement labelling these foreigners together who have no affiliation whatsoever and labelling them as troublemakers."

As far as she knows, no charges have been laid against the men.

They are being held at a prison north of Cairo and Greyson said she hopes the lawyer will get to see her brother and Loubani today.

Shalakany said although the two Canadians face serious allegations, he is optimistic that they will be released soon.

Consular officials planning second visit

According to the ONA news agency, the two Canadians, among others, are accused of being involved with the Muslim Brotherhood and trying to storm a police station in Cairo's Ramses Square during last week's demonstrations.

Security forces arrested the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday night, in an escalating battle with the Islamist movement that led to the ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected president and bloody clashes.

But Justin Podur, the pair's emergency contact, called the allegations "totally preposterous" in an interview with CBC News on Wednesday.

Podur, a mutual friend of Greyson and Loubani, has launched an online petition demanding their release. It has received thousands of signatures.

According to former Canadian ambassador to Egypt, consular officials will likely visit the pair accompanied by a doctor soon.

"At present, there’s an attempt to have a second access accompanied with a doctor," former ambassador Ferry de Kerckhove told CBC News in an interview Wednesday.

Consular officials have previously visited the two Canadians and have passed on a message that they are all right.

Cecilia Greyson said she has learnt from different sources that the pair may be physically abused in prison and she is "very concerned" about the situation.

De Kerckhove added he is confident Egyptian and Canadian authorities will reach a resolution.

"There’s no interest on the part of the Egyptian authorities to have anything happen to foreigners unless there’s any solid reason in terms of indictment," he said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government says it will continue to engage with the highest levels until the matter is resolved.

"The Egyptian ambassador has committed to press for a timely and positive resolution to this matter," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich said in a statement Tuesday after she and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird spoke with Egypt's ambassador to Canada.

With files from The Canadian Press