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Man Accused of Spying for Israel Returns to Egyptian Court

An Egyptian Canadian man accused of spying for Israel appeared in an Egyptian court where he denied many of the allegations that have swirled around the unusual case. Leslie Boctor has more for VOA from Cairo.

From his heavily guarded prison cage, Mohamed El Attar shouted his innocence to the judge, and told journalists that a police officer had beaten and used electric shocks on him while in solitary confinement for four weeks and forced him to drink his own urine.

El Attar has been charged with spying on behalf of Israel, but the court proceedings focused heavily on his denial that he is a convert to Christianity or a homosexual. Shaking his head vigorously, El Attar denied he had converted to Christianity, as he previously confessed, saying that he is a believing Muslim.

The trial of Mohamad El Attar has come to be referred to as simply "el Ghesous il ginz", or the sex spy. But today at his second court appearance, El Attar denied the strange allegations surrounding his case, including those of homosexuality.

Egyptian authorities have charged Mohamad El Attar with working as a low-level agent for Israeli intelligence while living in Canada and Turkey. The 300-page court file outlines a confession that El Attar has now said he was coerced into giving.

His confession states that he had sought asylum in 2003 in Canada on the basis of his homosexuality. He claimed to have converted from Islam to Christianity. He said that he used his position at a Toronto bank to track financial transactions within the Arab community, and had recruited 20 Arab Canadians to work for Israeli intelligence.

The lively court proceedings were repeatedly interrupted by journalists and the accused shouting out questions and commentary to the judge. At one point during the proceedings, the judge asked him to approach the bench to inspect his ears to determine if one of them was pierced, and declared there was no pierced ear.

His last lawyer, who dropped the case after the first court appearance, said that when he visited El Attar in prison, he had dyed red hair and was wearing an earring. He also stated El Attar had been cut off by his family because of the charges brought against him.

Current El Attar lawyer, Ibrahim Bassoyouni, said that his family had not abandoned him and had been visiting him in jail. He said that El Attar had originally pleaded guilty to the charges because of the advice of his first lawyer and that he told Bassoyouni his alleged testimony was false.

"Mohamad El Attar told me the reports of his confession that were attributed to him during his interrogation were not true and that he did not say any of the claims that were being made in his name," Bassoyouni said.

Bassyouni also added he was confident El Attar would be found innocent. El Attar was arrested in Cairo at the beginning of January while on a trip to visit his family.

Egyptian police have also issued warrants for three Israelis who have been charged as part of the alleged spy ring. The Egyptian authorities said El-Attar came to Canada in 2003 with the help of his Israeli handlers.