Two Canadians arrested and held without charge in Egypt for more than seven weeks have been ordered detained for another 45 days, a decision that comes amid heavy diplomatic pressure to free the two men.
The sister of Toronto filmmaker John Greyson said a prosecutor issued the extension for her brother and London, Ont., Dr. Tarek Loubani on Sunday.
"We were expecting some kind of decision to be brought down. Obviously we're very disappointed with this extension," Cecilia Greyson said.
In their first ever comments on their ordeal, Greyson and Loubani said in a statement released Saturday that they have been subjected to degrading conditions. They said they had left their Cairo hotel to observe an anti-government demonstration last month when Loubani heard calls for a doctor and began treating wounded demonstrators while Greyson began recording the bloody unrest on video.
The men were later arrested by police while heading back to their hotel. Their statement said they were beaten and dumped in a squalid, cockroach-infested jail cell crammed with others picked up that day.
Foreign Minister John Baird told Global TV on Sunday that he spoke with his Egyptian counterpart for an hour Friday night about the detained Canadians, but efforts are not progressing as hoped.
"We've had a favourable response at the political level but we haven't got the action that we want to see at this stage. We're going to keep focusing and keep working hard," Baird said Sunday morning before news of the extended detention.
Lynne Yelich, a junior minister responsible for consular affairs, said in a statement the government is "disappointed" Greyson and Loubani will stay in custody longer, adding consular officials continue to have access to them.
Cecilia Greyson said the men's legal team has launched a second appeal to free them, with a decision expected within days. She added they may be released before the 45 days are up, depending on the course of the investigation against them.
Sunday marked day 13 of a hunger strike the pair are staging to protest their detention. But Greyson's sister said they are being "careful" with their self-imposed starvation, and may reconsider it now that they face more time in prison.
"They're not interested in putting themselves in danger. The family members have really emphasized to both John and Tarek that if they start to go on too long they need to stop," she said, adding a doctor may check up on them this week.
She said their lawyers have told her the extension applies to the hundreds of people arrested and detained in the aftermath of the Cairo protest.
Egyptian prosecutors have accused Loubani and Greyson of "participating with members of the Muslim Brotherhood'' in an attack on a police station, but have not brought forward specific charges.
However, an Egypt foreign ministry spokesman has said there is a "solid basis... to charge them in the near future," according to a Toronto Star report.
The men's statement said they witnessed more than 50 people die in the unrest. They had planned an overnight stay in Cairo en route to Gaza, where Loubani was to do humanitarian work documented by Greyson.
But barred from getting across the border, they decided to investigate the protest erupting in Ramses Square mere blocks from their hotel.
The lengthy statement sketches a vivid portrait of what happened next, suggesting the pair are being detained for what they did and saw in the midst of the bloody clashes.
"(We saw) 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."
Their nightmare started when they stopped for ice cream and then tried to go through a police roadblock, leading to their arrest and vicious beating, it said.
"Was it our Canadian passports, or the footage of Tarek performing CPR, or our ice cream wrappers that set them off? They screamed 'Canadian' as they kicked and hit us. John had a precisely etched bootprint bruise on his back for a week."
"We would welcome our day in a real court with the real evidence, because then this footage would provide us with our alibi and serve as a witness to the massacre," the statement added.
The unrest in Cairo was sparked after president Mohammed Morsi was removed from power, prompting his supporters to take to the streets.
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