By Espe Currie, Andrea Fernandes and Kateryna Barnes
John Greyson and Tarek Loubani returned to Canada Friday night after 50 days held captive without charge in Cairo’s Tora prison.
Welcomed to Pearson with cheers and applause, Loubani and Greyson thanked the supporters who worked to bring them back home.
“In hindsight, it’s obvious we made mistakes,” Loubani told the crowd. “In medicine we try to embrace our mistakes, to own them, and to articulate them, to learn from them. We try to make them sound fancy. We don’t call them mistakes.
“We call them critical errors. We made quite a few.”
While most family and friends were not at Pearson Airport in Toronto to meet them, having planned an emotional reunion behind closed doors, Loubani’s father had accompanied the pair on their flight.
His cousin, her husband and two small children were also waiting to greet them.
Grateful for support
Loubani and Greyson read a prepared statement. While both appeared gaunt, they were all smiles as they spoke to the those gathered to welcome them.
Greyson read, while Loubani thanked the many who fought to bring them home, from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian Embassy in Cairo, to the journalists and activists who kept the story alive.
“We were detained without charges for nearly two months along with 600 others, all of us swept up in a brutal roundup on August 16,” Greyson said.
“We were beaten, we were housed in very brutal conditions, sleeping on the concrete, cockroaches, sharing a single tap and squat toilet.
We were not allowed phone calls, were allowed only a few visits, and were given very little time outside our cells. We sometimes despaired, sometimes quarreled – we wondered as recently as last Friday if this nightmare would drag on for years.”
The pair also thanked the family members who spearheaded awareness campaigns so crucial to their release – Greyson’s sister Cecilia, and his boyfriend Stephen Andrews.
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Happy to be back in time for Thanksgiving
Greyson and Loubani were arrested on their way to Gaza, where Greyson planned to film and Loubani to teach medicine.
They were caught up in a violent protest on the stop, arrested with 600 others and held without charges. Loubani and Greyson said they were held in a cockroach-infested cell with dozens of other inmates.
At one point during their detention, the two went on a two-week hunger strike to protest their detainment and conditions.
Greyson and Loubani were released from prison Oct. 5 without explanation. Egyptian officials would not allow them to leave the country until Friday, they said.
Their families, the Canadian government and countless others worked tirelessly to bring them home.
Lama Loubani, Tarek’s cousin, said she’s so happy he’s back in time for Thanksgiving.
“Words can’t even explain how happy we are, it’s the best Thanksgiving gift that anyone could ask for,” she told Humber News.
“We are just very happy and very thankful. Thank you to everyone who helped bring Tarek and John back.”
When reporters asked what the two were most looking forward to, Greyson quickly chimed in: “Pizza and wings.”
Check out Humber News reporter Kerrisa Wilson’s timeline for a play-by-play of Loubani and Greyson’s time in captivity here.