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Naomi Klein Calls for Economic Pressure on Egypt over Detention of Canadian Filmmaker, Doctor

10/02/2013 03:14 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Two Canadian citizens -- acclaimed Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and medical doctor Tarek Loubani -- have been jailed for more than a month-and-a-half in Egypt without charge after witnessing a massacre by state forces on August 16 in Cairo.

During an interview on Democracy Now!, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein called on her government to apply economic pressure on Egypt until the two were released. "The Harper government could be saying to the Egyptian government, 'We will pull our support for foreign investment.' That's a real threat that matters, because Egypt's economy is in real trouble now," Klein says.

The two were traveling through Egypt en-route to visit Gaza, where Greyson was to film Loubani as he trained emergency room doctors. In a statement smuggled out of their prison cell, Greyson and Loubani say they were arrested after rushing to the scene of a mass shooting of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Greyson says he began filming the shooting's aftermath while Loubani treated some of the injured.

"We were arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist,' slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries," they wrote.

Calling on people to apply economic pressure on Egyptian companies and to boycott traveling to the country, Klein says:

"If Egyptians saw that these human rights violations were costing them economic stability, that that would get their attention, and there would be consequences for this regime at home. That's the kind of -- that's the kind of pressure we want to see. And if we don't see it, I think what we're going to start seeing is grassroots economic pressure, boycotts of major Egyptian corporations and the tourism sector, which is a very important part of the Egyptian economy. You know, if this can happen to two Canadians passing through Cairo, just performing their duty -- they can end up in prison without charges now for 47 days -- you know, I don't know about you, but I'm not in any rush to travel to Egypt. And the Egyptian government needs to hear that message loud and clear, that there are our economic consequences, that people aren't going to be visiting the Pyramids until John and Tarek are out of prison.

Over the weekend, Egyptian authorities confirmed their imprisonment has been extended another 45 days, still without charge. Greyson and Loubani have been on a hunger strike for the past two weeks against their imprisonment.

Klein says she is troubled by the response thus far by the Canadian government:

"Stephen Harper's statements, he's left himself this very unsettling loophole, where he keeps saying, 'In the absence of charges, these men should be freed.' The charges -- any charges that may be laid against them -- and we've seen this outrageous grab-bag list that is being flung at almost 200 people, as far as I understand, that includes everything from murder to attacking a police station, it's a fishing expedition, it's absurd. We know what these men were doing: They were doing their jobs as humanitarians. Tarek was responding to calls for emergency medical aid. As an emergency doctor, that is his duty. And John, as a filmmaker, he was doing what I hope I would have done in that situation, which is grab the camera and get out there, document history ... when history is unfolding, when people are dying in the streets, we have a duty to bear witness. And that's what John was doing. And we haven't heard our government say, 'These men are innocent. They were doing their jobs. They must be released right now.' And that's what we're waiting for. We're waiting to hear that kind of clear, unequivocal statement from our prime minister and from our foreign minister."

In the interview, Democracy Now! also speaks with Cecilia Greyson, the sister of John Greyson, and Naomi Klein, independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo.