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Egypt Convicts Egyptian-Canadian Man of Spying For Israel


Egypt's State Security Emergency Court has convicted an Egyptian-Canadian of spying for Israel and has sentenced him to 15 years in prison. In his ruling, the judge said Mohammed el Attar was "seduced by Satan into selling out his country". Leslie Boctor has more for VOA from Cairo.

Attar, who had pleaded not guilty, flashed a victory sign when he entered the Cairo courtroom. Surrounded by dozens of security personnel, Attar grasped the bars of his prison cage as he awaited the court's decision. After the judge read out the verdict, Attar was whisked to a waiting police van.

Three Israelis, also charged in the case, were tried in absentia and also received 15-year sentences. Attar, who is 30, was fined the equivalent of $1,700.

After the proceedings, judge Sayed el-Gohary read the ruling to reporters. In it, he said Attar was "seduced by Satan" into selling out his country and that he had left Egypt to meet with the devil, ignoring national values and principles.

When reporters asked about the fairness of the sentence, the judge said "Egypt is known around the world for its fair courts."

Attar's lawyer Ibrahim el Basyuni called the verdict harsh, saying the media hype surrounding the case had an impact on the outcome. "There was no proof or evidence, and from all the facts in the case, as I saw it, he should have been acquitted. But I should have expected otherwise. I'm shocked…the media's involvement and the hype that surrounding his case definitely had an impact on this trial. The judge is only human after all, and it may have influenced his decision," he said.

A Canadian embassy spokeswoman said officials will review the decision and continue to provide Attar with consular assistance. In a statement, Canadian Foreign Minister Peter McKay said Canada "remains concerned about a number of aspects of the case" especially Attar's allegations of torture and mistreatment.

McKay called on Egypt to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into Attar's claims and to abide by the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

However, there is no appeal process against verdicts in the emergency court. Only President Hosni Mubarak can overturn the conviction.

A lawyer working on the Attar case commented that the sentence could have been worse because espionage cases typically carry a 25-year sentence.

Prosecutors said earlier that Attar confessed to spying for Israel in a 300-page account of his activities in Canada and Turkey. They say his confession stated that he fled Egypt in 2001 and, two years later, sought asylum in Canada on grounds of homosexuality.

They say he claimed he converted from Islam to Christianity. He allegedly used his position at a Toronto bank to track financial transactions within the Arab community, and recruited 20 Arab Canadians to work for Israeli intelligence.

Defense lawyer Basyuni has insisted that Attar confessed under duress. The defendant told the court in an earlier session that he was tortured with electric shocks and that interrogators threatened to harm his family.

Basyuni denies that Attar converted to Christianity and that he received payments from Israel. He says his client supported himself from his bank job in Canada.

Attar was arrested at Cairo Airport on Jan. 1 as he arrived on a family visit.

Earlier this week, in a separate case, an Egyptian nuclear engineer was charged with giving Israel confidential reports on the country's nuclear program.