TORONTO — Tarek Loubani and John Greyson are home after spending seven weeks in a Cairo prison.
Greyson, a Toronto-based filmmaker, and Loubani, an emergency room doctor from London, Ont., walked out from behind the closed security doors at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport Friday night to cheers, tears and the glare of the media spotlight.
But the men seemed in good spirits and prepared for the many questions that will come, reading from a three-page written statement.
“We are delighted to be free, and delighted to be home after 50 days in Tora prison and five more of not being able to fly out of Cairo,” said Loubani.
The pair thanked their families, university colleagues and thousands of supporters from across the country who demanded their release. They also thanked Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird for their efforts.
“Your hard work mattered, your voice mattered,” Loubani said of the international outcry. “It made a difference. We owe you our freedom.”
Greyson, a filmmaker and professor at York University, described how he and Loubani, along with 600 others, were arrested in a “brutal” round-up on Aug. 16 and imprisoned without charge. The men were beaten and housed in small quarters with other detainees in horrid conditions.
The pair admitted to making a number of errors that contributed to their imprisonment. One was assuming that their efforts to help as a doctor and filmmaker would keep them safe.
“We thought our work on Aug. 16, mine as a doctor and John’s as a filmmaker, tending to the wounded and documenting their plights would ... make neither of us blameworthy in the eyes of Egyptian authorities. We were wrong.”
But Greyson said they learned lessons about community in that cramped cell.
“That 38 men, blacksmiths, professors, construction workers, students, can co-exist day after day in a 3-metre-by-10-metre cell with grace and humour and kindness.”
The duo closed by asking Canadians to keep those who are unlawfully detained around the world in their thoughts.
Loubani shared a tearful embrace with a family member before he and Greyson were escorted from the airport by police. They were heading to a welcome home party in downtown Toronto.
Loubani’s second cousin, Sam Qita, came to the airport to welcome him home. He called his imprisonment “sad” and said Loubani has made it his mission to help people around the world.
“He’s a good guy and he goes outside of the box to help everyone,” Qita said. “Whether it’s London at the hospital, or in parts of Europe, Africa, Gaza, Palestine. He goes all over the world to help people in need.”