CAIRO: Following assurances over a period of a week, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa has failed to comment on the reported assistance Canadian diplomats are currently providing Mohammed Essam Ghoneim Al-Attar, the Egyptian-Canadian citizen charged with spying for Israel.
Al-Attar, who had been resettled in Canada by the United Nations after leaving Egypt for Turkey in 2001, was arrested upon arriving in Cairo airport on Jan. 1 of this year. By the time his detention was made public some weeks later, he had confessed to spying on Arabs living in Turkey and Canada, as well as trying to recruit Christian Egyptians in Canada using money and sex.
Ibrahim Basyuni, Al-Attar s lawyer, who stated that his client s confession was extracted under torture, has been receiving assistance from Cairo-based Canadian diplomats, as well as Canada s Department of Foreign Affairs, according to a report in the Canadian press.
The Globe and Mail report quotes Al-Attar s former roommate in Toronto as saying the accused was in constant touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs, who had been sending potentially vindicating documents to the Canadian Embassy in Cairo. One such document arrived in the middle of the last hearing, proving Al-Attar had not been meeting Israeli agents in the Turkish city of Ankara, as the prosecution had contended.
Speaking to The Daily Star Egypt, Marie-Christine Lilkoff, Deputy Director of Media Relations at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, was unable to comment further on the matter, other than to reiterate the statements made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay, on March 26.
We re following this very closely … We ve established direct contact with the Egyptian government to express our concerns, particularly around torture allegations, the Minister s statement says.
As well, we continue to have contact with his lawyer and to that extent we ll provide the consular support that we do in cases like this involving Canadians who are facing charges overseas.
The case, which began on Feb. 24, has been adjourned to April 21 when a verdict will be announced. If found guilty Al-Attar will face up to 25 years imprisonment.