World·Video

Canadian Mohammed el-Attar still jailed in Egypt

Canadian Mohammed el-Attar is halfway through a 15-year sentence in a Cairo jail. CBC's Adrienne Arsenault looks at a case that seems to have faded from public view, even though the federal Department of Foreign Affairs says it is following it closely.

Case seems to have faded from public view, Adrienne Arsenault reports

Egyptian-Canadian imprisoned as spy in Cairo

7 years ago
Duration 3:32
Mohamed el Attar, a bank teller, went to Egypt to meet family and friends and never came back 3:32

Even if Canadian journalist Mohammed Fahmy comes home soon, there will be another Canadian left behind, ensnared in Egypt's legal system.

Mohammed el-Attar is halfway through a 15-year sentence. He's been serving that time, it seems, without a champion, without a heartfelt hashtag campaign to support him or even paid legal representation.

El-Attar was arrested after arriving Cairo in January 2007 for what he said was a vacation. He was charged with spying for Israel while in Canada and swiftly sentenced.

Mohammed el-Attar gestures as he is led into the Egyptian State Security Emergency Court in the New Cairo suburb of Cairo on March 28, 2007, for the continuation of his trial. (Hossam Ali/The Associated Press)
The bulk of the case rested on a confession el-Attar and human rights groups have always maintained was tortured out of him.

The case peppered newspapers and broadcasts seven or eight years ago, but has all but disappeared now.

Even Amnesty International acknowledges no one from the organization has seen el-Attar in years. 

His lawyer, Ibrahim al Basyuni, says his last visit with el-Attar was two years ago.

Basyuni insists he has never been paid, hasn't been approached by Canadian officials in years and wonders if Canada has forgotten about el-Attar.

CBC News caught up today with Canada's ambassador to Egypt, who was at Fahmy's court appearance in Cairo.

Troy Lulashnyk said: "In this case, I just refer you to the [Department of Foreign Affairs] and today we're here to support Mr. Fahmy."

CBC has been in touch with department officials in Ottawa, who added only that Canada is following the case closely and working with local officials.

What any of that actually means for el-Attar or his future in a three-by-two-metre cell in a Cairo prison isn't entirely clear.

Watch Adrienne Arsenault's report tonight on The National.

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