Canada urged to cut Egypt arms deals, do more to free John Greyson and Tarek Loubani

Canada is not doing enough to free two citizens, emergency room doctor Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson, who have been imprisoned in Egypt for more than a month without charge.

The men, who were transiting through Egypt en route to Gaza, were also reported to have begun a hunger strike this week.

They are held along with thousands of Egyptians arrested in arbitrary political sweeps by the coup regime, amid a bloody crackdown on opponents.

“Time to channel some outrage”

The Toronto Star urged Canada to do more in an editorial today, faulting the government for being too soft since the 3 July military coup that overthrew Egypt’s elected president Muhammad Morsi:

Enough. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making discouragingly little headway with muted expressions of diplomatic “concern” about the fate of two Canadians — a physician and a filmmaker — who have been languishing for weeks in an Egyptian jail without explanation or charge. It’s time to channel some outrage.

The military coup that has plunged Egypt into this contempt for due process and the law is a betrayal of its 2011 democratic revolution. It is roiling relations with friendly countries such as Canada and the United States. It is scaring off aid, investment and tourism. And it is condemning Egyptians to yet more violence and instability. That’s the message Harper should be sending, forcefully and publicly, to Cairo’s generals and their political cronies.

No credible accusations

Although Greyson and Loubani have not been charged, Egyptian prosecutors have made vague accusations that they and other foreign citizens picked up in the sweeps were involved violent activity. The Toronto Star demanded:

Egypt must provide a credible case, or release these men as it should release many others. No one who knows them believes they threatened Egypt’s security and social peace, much less belonged to an armed gang that had guns and explosives. While both are passionate activists, they are committed to Palestinian [emphasis in original] causes and were merely passing through Cairo en route to Gaza City.

Cut off arms deals

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East has urged the government to go even further.

“Prime Minister Harper should immediately call his Egyptian counterpart to demand Greyson and Loubani’s release; Canada has leverage with Egypt; it’s high time it used it,” the group’s president Thomas Woodley said in a statement.

Canada “exports millions of dollars of military equipment annually to Egypt. Egypt is likely also a recipient of indirect Canadian military exports, via Canada-US military agreements. CJPME believes that Canada must suspend direct and indirect arms exports to Egypt and consider suspending other trade as well, at least until Egypt’s human rights track record improves considerably,” the statement adds.

There has been broad support for the men, with many of their students as well as celebrities speaking out to highlight their case, including at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.