Father of Canadian detained in Egypt proud of son’s humanitarian work

A New Brunswick father is pleading for his son’s safe return home. Dr. Mahmoud Loubani’s son, Dr. Tarek Loubani, was arrested alongside Toronto documentary maker, John Greyson, in Cairo on Thursday. Laura Brown reports.

BATHURST, N.B. – The father of a doctor and humanitarian from Ontario, in Egyptian police custody since last Friday, said his son is someone who “makes all Canadians proud.”

Dr. Mahmoud Loubani spoke with Global News on Tuesday, at his medical clinic in Bathurst, N.B., about his son Tarek’s arrest on Aug.16 – a day after he arrived in the country — amid deadly clashes between protesters, loyal to deposed President Mohammed Morsi, and Egyptian police.

Tarek Loubani — an emergency room physician and assistant professor at Western University, in London, Ont. – was in Egypt to travel across the border to Gaza and check up on a humanitarian project he began in February at the al-Shifa hospital.

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“Tarek was not only passionate about this project, he was paying from his own pocket [and] they took a lot of equipment,” his father said. “They were able to help 55 people in Gaza to be trained and have their ACLS [advanced cardiac life support], so they could provide good emergency services to the people of Gaza.”

Tarek and his travelling companion John Greyson – a Toronto-based filmmaker and professor at York University – were forced to stay in Egypt because the border was closed.

Greyson was accompanying Tarek to Gaza to explore the possibility of making a documentary about the al-Shifa hospital.

Read more: Who are John Greyson and Tarek Loubani?

According to Loubani, after failing to cross the border out of Egypt his son and Greyson went into a police station to get directions back to their hotel.

That particular police station was reportedly ambushed shortly before they arrived and they were swept up in a wave of arrests.

Egyptian authorities have detained the pair at the maximum security Tora prison – the same facility where former President Hosni Mubarak is imprisoned and possibly set to be released from this week.

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WATCH: Dr. Mahmoud Loubani speaks about the arrests of his son Tarek and filmmaker John Greyson

There are also four siblings from Ireland, who are being detained at the prison. They were arrested on Friday night while taking refuge at Cairo’s al-Fath mosque when Egyptian forces engaged in a gun battle with members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Read more: Violence In Egypt impacts Canadian families

The past few days have been stressful for Loubani and his wife, since they learned Saturday morning their son had been detained.

“When they were arrested we were worried that they’d be killed and this was the nightmare,” he said. “We could not sleep, we could not do anything until we heard from the Foreign Affairs personnel that… the Canadian embassy were able to contact Tarek and to talk to him.”

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According to The Canadian Press, the Canadian ambassador in Cairo paid a visit Monday to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, demanding that Egyptian authorities explain the detentions.

The Canadian Press also reported on Tuesday, Tarek Loubani and Greyson could be held behind bars for 15 days.

Read more: Key events in Egypt’s revolution and upheaval

Loubani is angered Egyptian authorities have detained his son, when he was only trying to return to his homeland to help others.

“If they knew about this mission, they should reward them and be proud of them,” Loubani told Global News.

The Loubani family came to Canada as refugees and moved to the northern New Brunswick city 23 years ago, when Tarek was nine-years-old.

He went to high school in Bathurst before studying medicine at Dalhousie University and the University of Western Ontario (now known as Western University).

He is employed in the emergency departments at University and Victoria Hospitals as well as at the St. Joseph’s Hospital Urgent Care Centre, all in London, Ont.

Although he is afraid for his son’s well being, Loubani hopes Tarek’s arrest will not discourage people from doing humanitarian work.

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“This is the price that they expect,” Loubani said, “And even when I used to talk to Tarek, he said, ‘Dad, I may be killed in any of these missions. Don’t be sad.’”

But, Loubani said he gives his son his full support for the work that he does.

For our ongoing coverage of the situation in Egypt, click here

*With files from Laura Brown and The Canadian Press

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