TORONTO, Ont. – John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, who were held in a Cairo prison for seven weeks, arrived in Toronto Friday evening, to a large crowd of media and several family members awaiting their return.
The two men emerged through the doors leading to the arrivals concourse at Pearson with large smiles on their faces, looking tired yet relaxed and relieved, as many in the crowd applauded. They then addressed the crowd with a typed-up, two-and-a-half page 12-minute long speech.
“We’re home, because of the many thousands of people from all walks of life, from all stripes of the political spectrum – from Canada, from Egypt and from around the world,” Loubani told the crowd.
“They were outraged at our arbitrary arrest and spoke out for our release. Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of them. Your hard work mattered. Your voice mattered, it made a difference. We owe you our freedom.”
Their statement also focused on the situation in Egypt, and both Greyson and Loubani admitted they may have made a mistake going into the area at a time when the country was politically unstable, and that they were too trusting.
“In hindsight, it’s really obvious that we made mistakes,” Greyson said. ”We know at times our families rightly cursed us, and we know we owe them several decades worth of flowers and back massages for everything they’ve been through, but we never for a moment doubted their unconditional love.”
Both men also discussed the difficult conditions they faced in jail, and say they will continue to support the people fighting for their freedom in Egypt.
As they concluded their statement, Loubani’s second cousin, Lama, rushed up to embrace him through tears.
“Words can’t even explain how happy we are. It’s the best Thanksgiving gift that anyone can ask for,” she said, adding that next week is the Muslim holiday Eid and it’s good to have him back just in time.
Both Greyson and Loubani said they would not answer any questions Friday evening, and their first order of business was to head downtown with family for a dinner of pizza and chicken wings.
A busy Friday for Greyson and Loubani
The flight arrived a half hour earlier than originally scheduled Friday evening, minutes before 7:00. The men left Cairo at 9:40 a.m. local time and flew to Pearson via Germany on flight AC 877.
“We cannot wait to see our families, who will be waiting for us in the city where we can share hugs, tears and laughs privately. We can’t wait!” They said Friday morning.
“Our thoughts remain with the 600 detainees arrested on the same day as us and their families. We make the same demand for them on day #54 of their detention that you made for us: Charge them or free them so they can have their day of hugs, tears and laughs soon, too.”
Greyson and Loubani’s arrest:
Greyson, a filmmaker and Loubani, an emergency-room physician, were arrested on Aug. 16 during violent anti-government demonstrations in Cairo. They said they were arrested after asking for directions to their hotel at a police checkpoint.
Both were detained in what they’ve called squalid and oppressive conditions.
They were released on Oct. 6 and tried to fly home, but were prevented from boarding after their names appeared on a “stop-list” issued by prosecutors.
On Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Badr Abdel-Atty stated that the pair had been cleared to leave Egypt.
“I thank the Government of Egypt for its considerable assistance in this matter and for providing regular consular access,” said Yelich in her statement early Friday.
The statement also included a cautionary note to Canadians to “visit travel.gc.ca to read up on local laws before travelling.”