Canadian imprisoned in Egypt for years safely back in Toronto

Mohammed el-Attar, a Canadian imprisoned in Egypt for nearly 15 years, landed safely at Toronto’s Pearson airport Friday morning. 

El-Attar, who is also known by the name Joseph, was arrested after arriving in Cairo for what he said was a vacation to see family in January of 2007. 

He was charged with spying for Israel while in Canada and swiftly sentenced.

The bulk of the case rested on a confession that el-Attar and human rights groups have always maintained was tortured out of him. One of the last things el-Attar said publicly from his courtroom cell was that he had been electrocuted and forced to drink his own urine.

CBC News reported in 2015 that el-Attar was held in a three-by-two-metre cell in the notorious Tora prison while in Egypt.

He was born in Egypt but fled the country to seek refuge in Canada, saying he faced persecution for his faith (born into a Muslim family, he had converted to Christianity) and because he is a gay man.

In Canada, el-Attar worked as a bank teller.

In 2015, Alex Neve of Amnesty International told CBC News those factors made him extremely vulnerable in Egypt.

“There’s every reason in the world for the Canadian government to be taking this case very seriously, and we’ve never seen any indication of that,” he said.

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