NEWS

John Greyson, Tarek Loubani released in Egypt, not yet heading home

10/06/2013 08:41 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
Two Canadians held without charge for seven weeks in an Egyptian prison have been released from custody, but they're still waiting for arrangements to be made for a flight home, a friend told CBC News on Sunday.

Confirmation that John Greyson and Tarek Loubani were granted their freedom came from Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich late Saturday.

Their friend and spokesman in Canada, Justin Podur, said as of 8 a.m. ET Sunday, the pair were still in Egypt. He could not be more precise about their location, but said they're not alone.

"They're definitely surrounded by people who care about them as well as officials from the embassy," he said.

Podur said there are "bureaucratic obstacles" to deal with before the two can fly home — and once they arrive, "they will want to take a few hours before talking to the press."

Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker and professor at York University, and Tarek Loubani, an emergency ward doctor from London, Ont., were arrested Aug. 16 during violent anti-government demonstrations in Cairo.

"I look forward to Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson being reunited with their families and friends, who have shown tremendous strength during this difficult time," Yelich said in a statement.

"We are facilitating Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson's departure from Egypt," the statement said.

- Read Loubani and Greyson's full statement on their arrest

- Canadians detained in Egypt end hunger strike

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also welcomed the news of their release, issuing a statement from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur where he was holding trade talks before heading to Bali for an APEC summit.

"The government of Canada has obviously been pushing for that and welcomes this decision by the government of Egypt and we look forward to seeing these two Canadian citizens return home in the not too distant future."

Greyson and Loubani were released Sunday morning — Cairo time. There was no immediate comment from the two men's families. A website set up to generate support for the pair made no mention of their release late Saturday.

No charges laid

Before their arrest, Greyson and Loubani said they were planning to stay in Cairo only briefly on their way to Gaza.

They issued a statement from prison last month indicating they had decided to check out protests that were close to their hotel and saw at least 50 protesters killed. Loubani stopped to treat some injured protesters and Greyson filmed the carnage.

Their statement said that after leaving the scene of the protests they asked police for directions and were stopped and beaten and taken into custody.

Subsequently Egyptian prosecutors accused them of "participating with members of the Muslim Brotherhood" in an attack on a police station, but never laid any charges.

The two Canadians said they spent most of their time crammed with other inmates in a filthy, cockroach-infested prison cell as they awaited word on their fate.

The pair staged a 16-day hunger strike to try to pressure Egyptian officials to release them, but started eating food again last week.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the Canadian govenrment is doing "absolutely everything it can" to secure the pair's release.

Baird spoke with his Egyptian counterpart for an hour late last month lobbying on the two men's behalf.

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