- Joseph Attar returned to Canada on Friday morning after spending a third of his life in an Egyptian prison on false spying charges.
- Attar’s parents and only family in Canada died while he was still incarcerated, so he won’t have much to look forward to when he returns.
Joseph Attar came back to Canada on Friday morning after spending a 3rd of his life in an Egyptian prison on false spying charges.
“I’m back, I’m back to life,” Attar said via Skype from Toronto to CTV News. “I can take a hot shower by myself for the first time in 15 years.” There will be no more cold water on my body. I’m able to eat a proper, hot meal. I have the entire bed to myself.”
Attar, 45, is a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen who worked as a bank teller in Toronto before being detained upon arrival in Cairo in January 2007 for what he claimed was a trip to see family.
In April of that year, an Egyptian court jailed Attar to 15 years in prison for spying for Israel.
“Before I got to the court session, my verdict already was handed down,” Attar said.
Attar pleaded not guilty and has maintained his innocence for a long time. During the trial, Egyptian newspapers published an alleged confession that was used as evidence against him, which Attar and his lawyer claimed was obtained through torture.
Attar claimed he was electrocuted and forced to consume his urine during 4 weeks of solitary confinement when journalists approached the metal cage he occupied in court.
During a rare press conference in March 2007, Attar told reporters, “I am innocent.” “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong.” And I’ve never cheated on Canada in my life.”
He was previously known as Mohammed el-Attar; he was accused of being paid by Israel to gather information on Egyptians and Arabs in Turkey and Canada. Israel has denied the allegations.
Attar’s lawyer chastised prosecutors for “fixing” his client’s “homosexual behavior” during the trial. Attar is a Christian who converted from Islam, which was also a point of contention for the prosecution.
“Canada has been there to sustain Mr. Attar and repeatedly extend his case at the highest levels,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Jolie said in a Friday tweet.
Attar says he appreciates recent attempts but believes Canada’s previous government neglected and abandoned him.
“Mr. Stephen Harper and his government completely abandoned me and abandoned me in the wilderness,” Attar said on Friday.
Majed El Shafie of Toronto, who was tortured in Egypt, has been advocating for Attar’s release since 2017. For the first time, he and Attar met face to face today.
“I hate to say it, but our Government of Canada now focuses more on celebrity cases than on important Canadian cases,” El Shafie said via Skype to CTV news.
Attar’s parents and only family in Canada died when he was still in prison, so he has little to look forward to when he returns. As he recovers from the trauma and restarts his life, he asserts he wants to forgive those who mistreated as well as abused him.
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