Egyptian-Canadian jailed in spy case

A court in Cairo has sentenced Mohammed Essam Ghoneim al-Attar, an Egyptian-Canadian, to 15 years in prison after convicting him of spying for Israel.

A judge in Cairo sentenced an Egyptian-Canadian to 15 years in prison on Saturday after convicting him of spying for Israel.

In exceedingly short order, the judge entered the courtroom, sat down, read the verdict and left.

The defendant,Mohammed Essam Ghoneim el-Attar, was then hustled out of the prisoner's cage and taken to a police vehicle.

Mohammed el-Attar is led from a police truck into the Egyptian State Security Emergency Court on Saturday before he was convicted of spying for Israel. ((Ben Curtis/Associated Press))

The 31-year-old former bank teller from Toronto, who holds dual citizenship,had been on trial in the Egyptian capital since Feb. 24, along with three Israelis who were convicted in absentia and also handed 15-year prison terms.

El-Attar was arrested in January when he returned to visit his native Egypt.

Most of the evidence introduced throughout the court case has come from a confession that he signed after spending at least three weeks incommunicado, with no consular assistance and no lawyer.

He was accused of being paid to spy on Egyptians and Arabs in Turkey and Canada and of using his position at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to obtain information on specific accounts.

El-Attar claimed he confessed only after days of torture. He said he was forced to drink his own urine and that his family in Egypt was threatened. El-Attar told the court he was also given electric shocks.

His Egyptian lawyer, Ibrahim Bassiouni, told reporters after the sentencing that the court "had no concrete evidence against the defendant."

There is no appeals process in Egypt, so the only hope for el-Attar is some kind of a presidential pardon, said CBC's Peter Armstrong, who was in the courtroom when the verdict came down.

Bassiouni said he would apply for a pardon for his client once he has received a more extensive written version of the one-sentence ruling, but acknowledged there was little likelihood that any such pardon would be granted.

Canadian Embassy officials were in the courtroom for the sentencing. A spokesman said they will review the decision and will stay in contact with el-Attar, his friends and his family.