John and Tarek released

London emergency room doctor Tarek Loubani and Toronto filmmaker John Greyson have been freed from a Cairo prison where they have been held since Aug 16, reports the London Free Press.

As of this writing, the two had not been granted transit out of Egypt, however. They were blocked from boarding a plane earlier today and remain in Cairo, albeit not in custody. What follows is an initial account of the news of their release from jail.

“We’re over the moon,” Cecilia Greyson told the Free Press Saturday evening. Greyson said she spoke to her brother John Greyson about 11 p.m., confirming that the two had been released. “They are doing really well,” Cecilia Greyson said. The pair are now in a Cairo hotel and will be returning to Canada once arrangements have been completed. Mohammed Loubani, a brother of Tarek, said he spoke briefly on the phone to his brother after they were released.

“He’s okay, everything considered,” Mohammed said. But he said the two remain in a precarious situation as long as they are still in Egypt.

“I won’t be celebrating until they are on a plane back to Canada,” he said. Passports and other arrangements still have to be made to get his brother and Greyson back home, he said. Mohammed said he was first alerted earlier Saturday evening that the two could be released and was advised they would be moved to a police station and then be picked up by Canadian consular officials. Loubani and Greyson were arrested in Cairo on their way to Gaza as part of a medical mission. According to a statement released by the pair, they were arrested and beaten after witnessing the deaths of more than 50 protesters. Their detention drew international attention with the Canadian government warning Egypt that it could jeopardize relations between the two countries.

Continue reading “John and Tarek released”

Greyson and Loubani: In their own words

Filmmaker John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani are now in the 12th day of a hunger strike after more than 40 days in a Cairo jail, where they are being held without charges following


an erroneous arrest in the midst of violence in Egypt as they were

traveling through Cairo en route to a humanitarian mission in Gaza. Today the story went global, as news outlets around the world responded, in part, to the account of their captivity excerpted below from a CBC report:

“We are on the 12th day of our hunger strike at Tora, Cairo’s main prison, located on the banks of the Nile. We’ve been held here since August 16 in ridiculous conditions: no phone calls, little to 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.

“We never planned to stay in Egypt longer than overnight. We arrived in Cairo on the 15th with transit visas and all the necessary paperwork to proceed to our destination: Gaza. Tarek volunteers at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, and brings people with him each time. John intended to shoot a short film about Tarek’s work.

“Because of the coup, the official Rafah border was opening and closing randomly, and we were stuck in Cairo for the day. We were carrying portable camera gear (one light, one microphone, John’s HD Canon, two Go-Pros) and gear for the hospital (routers for a much-needed wifi network and two disassembled toy-sized helicopters for testing the transportation of medical samples).

“Because of the protests in Ramses Square and around the country on the 16th, our car couldn’t proceed to Gaza. We decided to check out the Square, five blocks from our hotel, carrying our passports and John’s HD camera. The protest was just starting – peaceful chanting, the faint odour of tear gas, a helicopter lazily circling overhead – when suddenly calls of “doctor”. A young man carried by others from God-knows-where, bleeding from a bullet wound. Tarek snapped into doctor mode…and started to work doing emergency response, trying to save lives, while John did video documentation, shooting a record of the carnage that was unfolding. The wounded and dying never stopped coming. Between us, we saw over fifty Egyptians die: students, workers, professionals, professors, all shapes, all ages, unarmed. We later learned the body count for the day was 102. Continue reading “Greyson and Loubani: In their own words”

Prosecutors fail to meet with Greyson and Loubani as 92,000 petition


Two Canadian men remain jailed in an Egyptian prison with no end in sight after a prosecutor failed to show up to a scheduled hearing, reports today’s Toronto Star

“Lawyers for filmmaker John Greyson, 53, and his friend Dr. Tarek Loubani, 32, waited outside the Cairo prison in the hot sun for seven hours, but the prosecutor never appeared, said Greyson’s sister, Cecilia.


“We were all taken aback,” she said, sounding exhausted. “We were hopeful the meeting would take place… It’s been a frustrating day.”

“The lawyers were to meet with the Egyptian prosecutor to plead a case for releasing the men, presenting travel documents and official letters showing they were traveling through Cairo and had no intention of staying.

“The men were arrested Aug. 16 when they entered a police station to ask for directions. Their 15-day detention period ends Saturday, but they are now expected to remain in prison indefinitely until a new hearing takes place. Cecilia said the earliest a new hearing could happen would be next week, but nothing has been scheduled yet.

“It’s a bit of limbo. We do understand that things are chaotic there, but we need information,” she said.The prosecutor failed to show up to a number of scheduled meetings Thursday, leaving many lawyers and prisoners waiting, she added. Canadian consular officials have been helping facilitate meetings at the prison. No charges have been laid, but Egyptian prosecutors have alleged the men conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood in an attack on a police station. Minister of State Lynne Yelich issued a statement Thursday calling for the release of the two men.

“Canada remains deeply concerned about the cases of Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson and we are disappointed that the hearing scheduled for today did not take place,” she said.“We continue to work at the highest levels to confirm the specific charges against Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson. As we have not yet received confirmation of the charges, the Government of Canada calls for their release.” At the time of their arrest, Greyson and Loubani were en route to Gaza, where Loubani was to teach emergency room medicine and Greyson was thinking of producing a documentary, friends and family have said. The men have not spoken directly with their families but Cecilia has heard that they are in good spirits and health, despite being in an overcrowded cell crammed with other prisoners. A social media campaign supporting Greyson and Loubani has picked up steam, with more than 92,000 people signing a petition to free them. Filmmaker Atom Egoyan made an impassioned plea for their release in a video this week.

“The president of York University, where Greyson is an associate professor and director of the graduate film program, also issued a statement calling for the men to be freed.“The University has been in contact with government officials to express our deep concern for the welfare of Greyson and Loubani,” said Mamdouh Shoukri.

“Members of the York community, through local efforts, petitions, and statements, have been actively involved in supporting their safe return.”

In the meantime, Cecilia said her family is barely eating or sleeping, as they continue to wait for news.

“We’re extremely stressed out. It’s been pretty horrible for all of us.”


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Greyson & Loubani gain Cairo attorney

Supporters of two Canadians detained in Egypt — including a London doctor — have hired a Cairo lawyer and hope he and diplomatic staff will meet with the pair Thursday, as reported in the London Free Press”Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor in London, and filmmaker John Greyson of Toronto have been detained in Egypt since last weekend. No charges have been laid against them but the prosecutor has issued a 15-day detention order while the prosecution investigates.”Wednesday, supporters hired a lawyer, Adam Khaled El Shalakany, to represent the jailed pair in Cairo. He’s expected to meet with Loubani and Greyson Thursday, at the same time as consular staff from the newly re-opened Canadian Embassy there hope to visit the two jailed men. Friends and family members have said allegations against the pair — of possessing firearms and explosives, threatening security and social peace and belonging to an armed gang — are “wide-ranging, far-fetched, and outright bizarre.””The two were en route to Gaza to do medical relief work. They were passing through Cairo, helping people injured in the uprising at street clinics, when they were arrested. Several Canadian groups — filmmakers, doctors and humanitarians — are calling for their immediate release. “There is absolutely nothing precluding Tarek and John’s release on any day of this 15-day period. Continue reading “Greyson & Loubani gain Cairo attorney”

Arizona backs down on transgender law

Faced with an outcry from advocacy groups, an Arizona lawmaker has changed his proposed legislation that would have made it a crime for a transgendered person to use a bathroom other than his or her birth sex, reports the Huffington Post.

“The new bill by state Rep. John Kavanagh ditches that effort and instead seeks to shield businesses from civil or criminal liability if they ban people from restrooms that don’t match their birth sex. The House committee Kavanagh chairs voted to advance the so-called “bathroom bill” late Wednesday on a 7-4 party-line vote as a crowd broke out in chants of “shame, shame, shame.”imgres-6

“The hearing room was packed with people from the LGBT community who opposed the bill and complained that even the revised version was based on fear. Patty Medway, a transgendered woman who was born a man, said she’s been using female bathrooms for years without a problem. She called on Kavanagh to back away from his effort.

“I’ve been using washrooms for 15 years and I don’t want to be discriminated against, and I’m scared to go to a male washroom,” she said.The conservative Republican said he listened to the criticism of what one local television station dubbed the “Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty” bill.

“The revised bill is designed to shield businesses from lawsuits while protecting people from being exposed to what he described as “naked men in women’s locker rooms and showers,” Kavanagh said. It doesn’t prohibit businesses from allowing transgender people from using the restroom they want. To Kavanagh’s point that he worried about young girls being exposed to transgendered people in restrooms, Medway said that just doesn’t happen.”


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Worries about Iran’s space monkey

imgresLast week brought you the story of the Iranian monkey reportedly launched into outer space. Now we are worried about the little guy.

“The United States expressed doubt on Monday about Iran’s claim that it safely returned a monkey from space, saying it is questionable that the monkey survived — or if the flight happened at all,” reports today’s

“State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said a lot of questions remained ‘about whether the monkey that they reportedly sent up into space and reportedly came down was actually the same monkey, whether he survived.’

“’The Iranians said they sent a monkey, but the monkey that they showed later seemed to have different facial features,’Nuland told reporters. ‘He was missing a little wart.’ Tehran blames the confusion on Iranian media for initially using a photo of a backup monkey. It says the monkey orbited and returned safely, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added Monday that he would consider being Iran’s first astronaut in space.Nuland described Ahmadinejad’s proclamation as an “interesting choice,” but was more diplomatic than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who joked about Ahmadinejad’s ruminations earlier Monday. Continue reading “Worries about Iran’s space monkey”

Game maker contests worries over violence

The boss of Electronic Arts (EA) has denied there is any link between video game content and “actual violence,” reports the BBC.

“John Riccitiello spoke out on the subject during a conference call with bank analysts following his firm’s latest earnings forecast. But he acknowledged that his industry did face a ‘perception issue’.

“The topic has become the focus of political debate in the US following shootings in a Connecticut school and a Colorado cinema. imgresAfter the incidents, the National Rifle Association (NRA) – which itself had been accused of culpability – said the video game industry sowed ‘violence against its own people’.  Continue reading “Game maker contests worries over violence”