Cairo Persecution

Canadians in Egyptian Jail Might Be Under Suspicion For Film Footage

10.03.13 7:43 PM ET

CAIRO--John Greyson and Tarek Loubani remain in Tora prison because of the video footage, pictures, camera and computer equipment found in their possession says a spokesperson from Egypt’s Foreign Ministry.

According to Badr Abdellatty, a Foreign Ministry representative claiming to speak for the Prosecutor’s Office, the two Canadians have been held because of their presence at an unlawful demonstration and for allegedly resisting security forces. The new accusations are considerably less severe than the claims originally listed by the prosecution.

“When they were arrested they were found with a memory stick with footage and pictures,” says Abdellatty adding that that the film was from inside the Fateh Mosque near Ramses square, which had turned into a makeshift field hospital that protesters were later hauled up in. “When police searched their hotel room they found equipment to do live broadcasts and a small drone helicopter with a camera on it,” he adds in reference to a remote control video camera device.

 Abdellatty acknowledges that the two Canadians did not participate in the violence that ensued around them but is unable to explain what is illegal about filming and having camera equipment, only stating the situation is suspicious.

“They were supposed to pass through to Gaza, so police were suspicious of the footage they had,” he said, explaining the rationale behind Greyson and Loubani’s continued detention. The two have been imprisoned for more than six weeks. In describing the suspicion for which Egyptian authorities have kept Greyson and Loubani locked up, Abdellatty focuses on the fact that the two were non-Egyptians found at the center of an unfolding Egyptian crisis.

Despite this apparent shift in position on the part of the prosecutors, Adam el Shalankany, a lawyer for the Canadians, says that the prosecution has not notified them of any change in the formal accusations against Greyson and Loubani.

“We have not seen any change in the accusations,” says Shalankany. In its original list of accusations, the Prosecutor's claimed that Greyson and Loubani had been involved with 140 other people in murder, conspiracy to commit murder, thuggery, incitement of others to violence, violence, carrying illegal weapons and destruction of public property. “The Foreign Ministry has no jurisdiction to comment, only the Prosecutor’s Office can,” he adds.

Kamel Samir Kamael, an international relations representative for the Prosecutor's office, refused to comment on the case, insisting that his office could not speak to international journalists and was only permitted to speak to domestic media outlets. He noted the Foreign Ministry had been given all the case documents and was able to provide comment. The Prosecutor’s Office, tucked away at the end of a cluttered corridor at the Ministry of Justice in downtown Cairo, gave the same response.

Greyson and Loubani were arrested near Cairo's Ramses Square on August 16 during the height of military backed government’s post coup crackdown. Upon discovering out that they were unable to reach Gaza, where Greyson was researching a film about Loubani’s work in training Gaza ER doctors, the two found themselves caught up in Egypt’s spiraling unrest. According to a statement they released from jail, Loubani stopped to treat wounded protesters at a field hospital, while Greyson filmed and assisted. They were arrested later that evening in an Egyptian security forces sweep of the area that netted 140 people, with security forces beating them badly during the arrest.

In protest of harsh prison treatment and continued detention without formal charges, Greyson and Loubani declared a hunger strike on September 16. But after the courts decided last Sunday to extend their detention for another 45 days, along with the 140 others with whom they were arrested, the two men announced in a new statement that they had decided to end their fast.

Abdellatty denies any mistreatment of the Canadians, claiming they have made no official complaint of abuse. In the absence of charges and with no date of release, Abdellatty says that the government cannot intervene in the case. The fate of Greyson and Loubani will be decided by a completely independent judiciary.

“The new golden rule of democracy in Egypt has to be that the judiciary is completely independent,” says Abdellatty. It was unclear whether he was speaking on behalf of the Foreign Ministry or the Prosecution.