Ontario emergency room physician Tarek Loubani arrested in Cairo


LONDON -- The fate of a London emergency room doctor who stopped on his way through Egypt to help treat people wounded in clashes in Cairo remains unknown.

Tarek Loubani was arrested in Egypt on Friday.

"We don't know why or where he has been taken," said Dr. Bill McCauley, an emergency department physician who works with Loubani.

McCauley said Loubani was on his way to Gaza to carry out medical relief work there. He was passing through Cairo when he decided to provide assistance there, working in street clinics.

McCauley said Loubani sent him an e-mail a couple of days ago and described the situation in Cairo as bad as anywhere he has been.

"And he has seen a lot of bad situations," McCauley said. "We are concerned about his safety."

York University environmental professor Justin Podur said he received a call about 4 p.m. Friday from Loubani, saying he was being arrested by Egyptian police, along with Canadian filmmaker John Greyson, another professor at York.

Podur said it was a very brief conversation and he doesn't know where the arrest happened and he hasn't heard from Loubani since.

"This is a very serious situation," Podur said.

Greyson was travelling with Loubani to Gaza, Podur said.

Loubani works in the emergency departments at University and Victoria Hospitals and the Urgent Care Centre at St. Joseph's hospital in London.

Last November, Loubani took a team of health care workers to Gaza to teach advance cardiac life support techniques to workers there.

In London, he has been an activist, making headlines a year ago when he protested the federal government's decision to limit the free health-care services available to refugees.

His protest delayed an announcement by federal Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley until police were called and he was escorted out of the building by three officers.

"As a physician, I certainly understand that it's not possible for me to do my job properly when people are worried about money and when I have to separate the patients who are allowed to receive care and the patients who are not," Loubani said at the time.

In 2003 when he was a medical student, Loubani was arrested along with three other peace activists in the West Bank after establishing a camp to protest a perimeter wall being built by Israel. Israel deported him.

A Canadian citizen, Loubani came to Canada in 1991 as a refugee when he was 10. He is a graduate of Western's school of medicine.

McCauley said the Canadian Embassy has been contacted about Loubani's arrest.

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