Canadian home after 15 years in Egyptian prison

After spending a third of his life in Egyptian prison on espionage charges he denied, Joseph Attar returned to Canada on Friday morning.

I’m back, I’m back in life,” Attar told CTV News via Skype from Toronto. “For the first time in 15 years, I can shower on my own. No more cold water on my body. I can have a proper meal, a hot meal. I can sleep my entire bed.”

Attar, 45, who holds dual Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, worked as a cashier in Toronto in January 2007 when he was arrested upon arrival in Cairo over what he said was a trip to see family.

Attar was accused of spying for Israel, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison by an Egyptian court in April.

“The verdict was already pronounced before I went to the court session,” Al-Attar said.

Al-Attar pleaded not guilty and always maintained his innocence. During the trial, Egyptian newspapers published an alleged confession and used it as evidence against him, which Attar and his lawyer asserted was obtained through torture.

When reporters were allowed to approach briefly the metal cage he occupied in court, Attar said he was electrocuted and forced to drink his own urine during four weeks of solitary confinement.

“I am innocent. I have never done anything wrong. I have never cheated in Canada,” Al Attar told reporters during a rare exchange in March 2007.

Formerly known as Muhammad al-Attar, he was accused of paying to collect information on Egyptians and Arabs in Turkey and Canada for Israel, which has also denied such allegations.

During Attar’s trial, his attorney blamed prosecutors for “focusing” on his client’s “homosexual behaviour”. Attar converted from Islam to Christianity, something that was also of interest to the prosecution.

in a Tweet Friday“Canada has been there to support Mr. Attar and repeatedly raise his case at the highest levels,” said Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie.

Attar says he appreciates the recent efforts, but he felt neglected and abandoned by the previous Canadian government.

“Mr. Al-Attar said on Friday that Stephen Harper and his government … have completely abandoned me and left me in the bush.

After being tortured in Egypt himself, Maged El Shafei from Toronto has called for Al Attar’s release since 2017. Today he and Attar met face to face for the first time.

“I hate to say right now, our Canadian government is focusing on celebrity issues more than just important Canadian issues,” El Shafei told CTV News via Skype.

Unfortunately, Attar doesn’t have much to go back to in Canada, as only his parents and family died here while in prison. He says he wants to forgive those who abused and abused him while he recovers from the trauma and resumes his life.


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