Foreign Policy Blogs

A Canadian in Egypt or an Egyptian from Canada?

Canadians Abroad Part 2: 

The question of the rights of Canadian citizens abroad has recently come to light in the case of Mohamed El-Attar. El-Attar was put to trial on Feb 24th 2007 in Egypt for allegedly being a spy for the Israeli Mossad in Canada. He was picked up on January 1st on a flight from Toronto to Cairo and was accused by Egyptian authorities for attempting to recruit Arabs in Canada to work for the Israeli Mossad and accepting payments to issue spy reports on Arabs in Canada. He was also accused of being seen working with the Israeli embassy in Turkey and further for being a homosexual and a Zionist according to Mackinnon and Freeze of the Canadian publication the Globe and Mail.

The question of why El-Attar was arrested is as complex as what assistance he should or shall receive by the Canadian Government. According to Brigitte Pellerin of the Ottawa Citizen, Arab-Canadian organisations have been less than generous in assisting Mr. El-Attar possibly because of the alleged affiliations with the Mossad, but also possibly because of his sexual orientation. After the attention and repositioning of the Canadian Government with the Arar Commission and its effects on politics and policy, the assistance that would be expected from possible Canadian allies of Mr. El-Attar has not helped him in his case in Egypt.

Further to the issues surrounding Mr. El-Attar, there has been many accusations of torture surrounding his confession to the Egyptian authorities. Despite being a Canadian citizen, it is felt by many in Egypt that he will be guilty of the crimes and be sentenced to 25 years of hard labour. So much is the opinion of his guilt, that his first lawyer refused to defend him in the case. While Mr. El-Attar did confess to much of the accusations, it is well regarded that torture is not an uncommon issue in the Egyptian legal system. According to CBC reporter Peter Armstrong who reported on the trial:

 “He was bellowing out his innocence, saying that the police beat him and made him drink his own urine”

While Canadian Embassy officials did attend the trials, there has been no official comment to date on what action the Government plans to take regarding Mohamed El-Attar. There is no question that he is a citizen of Canada and that many in Canada and abroad believe the trial is mired in false accusations and politics, but with the history of inaction of the past Canadian Government and the possibility of an election drawing closer, it remains to be seen what decision Prime Minister Harper will take in regards to Mohamed El-Attar.

Video on El-Attar Trial – March 27th 2007 –



Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration