John Greyson, a Toronto-based filmmaker and York University professor, and Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor from London, Ont., who grew up in Bathurst, N.B., were arrested in the Egyptian capital on Friday.
Justin Podur, a professor at the faculty of environmental studies at York University, agreed to be the emergency contact for the pair as they made plans to travel to Gaza from Cairo but said he never dreamed he would actually get a call.
He described the phone call he received from them as chilling.
Podur received a call on Friday evening from Loubani, in which the doctor disclosed that he and Greyson had been detained. They did not provide information on where they were being held, or whether they would be facing charges.
“When Tarek called me it sounded like he was indoors, it didn't sound like he was in the middle of one of these big protests or anything, and he also sounded very surprised they were in fact being arrested,” he said.
Podur put forward a theory the two were arrested when they went into a Cairo police station looking for directions, saying that makes sense to him.
He said he is in constant contact with Loubani's family in Bathurst, N.B. The family told him they hope to hire a lawyer in Cairo to visit him and push for his release.
Podur said he's not satisfied with the federal government's reaction.
On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tweeted that "representations have been made to the highest levels of the Egyptian government," that he was "deeply concerned about the case," and that he was "committed to finding a positive resolution to the issue."
“That's a little bit vague,” said Podur. “The only positive resolution from our perspective is their immediate release. I'd like to hear that directly from Canadian officials.”
Podur said the last message he has from Loubani and Greyson came two days ago through a consular official and was simply that they were okay.