Canadian filmmaker John Greyson (pictured) and doctor Tarek Loubani have been released from a Cairo jail cell, after being detained without charge for seven weeks in Egypt.
Cecilia Greyson, the sister of the filmmaker, told the Toronto Star she had spoken with her brother for 10 minutes, and said he is “feeling good and really happy” after being freed. The two men are “getting back to eating solid food slowly, under a doctor’s supervision,” after having been on hunger strike.
While the duo have been released, the CBC and Associated Press both report that the men were barred from flying out of the country yesterday (October 6), citing Cairo airport officials. The pair had checked in for a flight to Germany, but were prevented from boarding the plane.
The pair retrieved their luggage and were free to leave the airport, but it is unknown at present if and when when they will be able to return to Canada.
In a statement, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper welcomed news of their release. “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,” he said.
The release comes after the men were informed last Monday (September 30) that their detention would be extended for another 45 days, pending charges. Greyson, whose doc Fig Trees won a Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival, was en route to Gaza with Loubani, an Ontario-based emergency room doctor, when the pair became stranded in Egypt on August 16, amid civil unrest in the country.
Egyptian prosecutors had accused Loubani and Greyson of participating with members of the Muslim Brotherhood in an attack on a police station, which the pair denied.
In a statement, released to Canadian press, the duo said they had been beaten, stripped, had their heads shaven, and were being forced to sleep on a concrete floor with cockroaches.
An array of documentary filmmakers and industry figures – including directors Sarah Polley and Alex Gibney – organized a press conference at TIFF last month demanding the release of the two men.
Jehane Noujaim, director of Egypt-focused documentary The Square, dedicated her TIFF People’s Choice Documentary Award victory to the two men.