Story of Israeli spy in Toronto 'nonsense,' Israel says

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | 7:13 PM ET

Israeli officials are denying a report of an Israeli spy operating in Toronto, calling the claim a "complete and utter fabrication."

Both the Israeli public security minister and Israeli's ambassador to Canada said Tuesday that the allegations against Mohamed Essam Ghoneim el-Attar are not true.

El-Attar, who is a dual citizen of Egypt and Canada, was arrested in January in Cairo and charged with spying. Egyptian authorities claim he moved to Canada in 2003 to spy on people of Egyptian and Arab descent.

Egypt alleges el-Attar worked at an unnamed Toronto bank to obtain information on accounts for Israel, which recruited him while he was living in Turkey in 2001.

"I talked with the people in Israel who probably may know about this issue. I would summarize it in one word: nonsense," said Avi Dichter, Israel's public security minister.

He was meeting with Canadian Public Security Minister Stockwell Day in Ottawa on Tuesday when reporters grilled him on el-Attar.

Israeli Ambassador Allan Baker also denied the allegations against el-Attar.

"This is a curious story," he said Tuesday. "As if the Israelis are trying to recruit all sorts of Egyptians and Canadians to spy on Egyptians. This, let me say very clearly, is a complete and utter fabrication."

El-Attar's arrest was only made public last weekend. He was detained in January at the Cairo airport after flying into the city from Canada.

Canadian officials have not said much about the case. The Department of Foreign Affairs said Sunday it has been in contact with the Canadian Embassy in Cairo and is investigating the report of el-Attar's arrest.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service will not comment on the issue.

Allegations of Israeli spies with ties to Canada have surfaced before.

In 1997, Canada temporarily brought its ambassador home from Israel to protest the fact that two Israeli agents used fake Canadian passports in a botched assassination plot against a Palestinian militant.

In 2002, a Palestinian spy said he was recruited by Israelis pretending to be Canadians, while in 2004 an Israeli spy reportedly travelled to China and North Korea using a stolen Canadian passport.


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