PM call to free jailed Canadians in Egypt not strong enough, critic says
by Thomas Rohner
The Prime Minister’s office’s call for the immediate release of two Canadians held without charges in an Egyptian prison since Aug. 16 doesn’t go far enough, a University of Toronto professor said on Monday.
“I think the Canadian government needs to take a much stronger stance, because it’s very easy for the Egyptian government to charge them with something preposterous,” Mohammed Fadel, a law professor specializing in Islamic law, told Humber News.
Stephen Harper’s office released a statement Sept. 28 which read, “In the absence of charges, Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson should be released immediately.”
John Greyson, a filmmaker and professor at York University in Toronto, and Tarek Loubani, a doctor from London, Ont, have been held in a Cairo prison for over six weeks.
A statement issued by the two on Sunday said they had been delayed in Cairo on their way to Gaza because of border-crossing problems. Loubani was on his way to train doctors in Gaza, and Greyson was to film the training.
“Because of the protests in Ramses Square [in Cairo]…our car couldn’t proceed to Gaza,” the statement read. “We decided to check out the Square.”
They were arrested with others attending the protest and have been detained since.
Justin Podur, a friend and spokesperson for the pair, is leading a campaign for their release.
He wrote to Humber News that there is a conflict in the Egyptian government over whether the two Canadians should be released.
Podur wrote that those who are opposed to their release need to be convinced through diplomacy that the detention is not in the best interest of Egypt.
“Now that the Canadian PMO has called clearly for their immediate release, we need to follow that up and ensure that it happens.”
But Fadel said Western powers, including Canada, did not speak out clearly against the toppling of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in early July, strengthening the power of security services in Egypt.
Under emergency measures recently passed by the new Egyptian government, suspects of political crimes can be detained arbitrarily and indefinitely, Fadel said. Such measures show the security forces in Egypt are paranoid and trying to tighten their control, Fadel said.
“It’s in their rational interest to be paranoid, and to have a paranoid population, because that entrenches and legitimizes their hold on power. They want to be able to tell the Egyptian people that everybody is their enemy and is out to destroy them.”