By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com October 06 2013 2:21 PM ET
After seven weeks in brutal conditions, a gay filmmaker who was imprisoned in Egypt was finally released today, according to the Associated Press.
Canadian filmmaker John Greyson, along with Dr. Tarek Loubani, were arrested in August after coming to the aide of citizens wounded in protests. Greyson recorded the incident, which the pair says left more than 50 dead. While in prison, Greyson said he was beaten so badly it left "a precisely etched boot-print bruise on his back" and went on a hunger strike.
Here's how the New York Times reported what happened next, according to a letter the pair smuggled out of jail:
Dr. Loubani, who is of Palestinian descent, was on his way to train medics in the Gaza Strip, and Mr. Greyson was planning to film his work there.
They were arrested together on Aug. 16 in the vicinity of clashes between the police and Islamist protesters around a mosque in Ramses Square. Having “decided to check out the square,” the two wrote in a letter provided to journalists, they heard a shout for a doctor. Dr. Loubani began treating wounded protesters, and Mr. Greyson filmed the scene. “Between us, we saw over 50 Egyptians die,” they wrote, adding, “all unarmed.”
When the fighting subsided, they “stopped for ice cream,” they wrote, and eventually stopped at a checkpoint to ask for help getting back to their hotel through police lines.
“That’s when we were: arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries,” they wrote, adding: “They screamed ‘Canadian’ as they kicked and hit us. John had a precisely etched boot-print bruise on his back for a week.”
They wrote that after six weeks in prison they shared a “3.5 meter x 5.5 meter” cell — about 11 feet by 18 feet — with six others, and that they were on the 12th day of a hunger strike to protest their treatment. “Now we get (almost) daily exercise and showers,” they wrote.
No explanation for their release or imprisonment has yet to be given. Nearly 150,000 people signed an online petition calling for their release. And their hunger strike reportedly lasted 16 days before it ended last week.
Greyson earned praise for his 1996 film Lillies and directed episodes of shows such as Queer as Folk and Paradise Falls.