• February 10, 2007

Man claims torture in Egypt after refugee claim turned down

He’s a Christian from Egypt, who came to Canada in 2002 seeking asylum. He made a refugee claim, alleging he was persecuted in his home country, for promoting Christianity in his bookstore.

The Immigration and Refugee Board didn’t believe he was telling the truth. Neither did the federal court. In September, after he exhausted all appeals, Canada deported him back to Egypt — a country where Christians make up 10 per cent of the predominantly Muslim population.

CTV News has now obtained photographs and videotape, allegedly of the same man, which show fresh injuries on his back. They appear to be burns and welts, which he claims were inflicted by Egyptian authorities. He alleges that, since he was sent back, two security officers from Egypt’s State Security Investigations (SSI) have detained, interrogated and threatened him several times. He also claims he was shocked with electricity, doused with water and beaten.

CTV News has also obtained an audiotape recording, which his supporters said is the man pleading for help.

“I feel very afraid. Very afraid. Save me please. They tortured me. They tortured me a lot all over my back,” the man on the tape said. “They told me, we decorated your back like your Jesus. All my body was shaking. I could not control myself.”

“They were laughing. They were laughing. Let your Jesus come to save you.” The man broke down in tears. “Please, I beg you, I beg you save me, save me. Save my life.”

CTV is withholding the man’s name, because he fears retaliation from Egyptian authorities for telling his story. His immigration lawyer here in Canada said she believes every word.

“If people in society were administering the persecution, usually it would be something simple like a beating or hitting them with an object or harassing them,” Chantal Desloges told CTV News. “The government uses sophisticated torture methods and that’s what’s being used in this case. There is no question in my mind at all that it is torture inflicted by the government.”


“I believe that Canada is one of the best countries that has a justice system, but that does not mean that we do not make mistakes,” Reverend Majed El Shafie told CTV News. “When we send these people to these countries we are not aware as Canadians because everything here is so good. We don’t understand the culture. We don’t understand how these people can face challenges there.”

El Shafie added: “We have even the name of the officers who tortured this gentleman.”

His group fears other failed claimants, who also claimed religious persecution, could face the same fate if they are also sent back. El Shafie estimates that, of the several dozen claims that have been heard in the last few years, approximately half were rejected.

“I thought myself lucky to get away from what happened to me before I left Egypt and I could run away with my life, but I don’t think I could go back again,” said another failed refugee claimant who is still in Canada, fighting deportation.

“They (Egyptian authorities) are just doing a lot of things underground and nobody notices,” the man claimed to CTV News. “They hide it from the news. They hide it from the public.”

CTV News showed the pictures of the man’s injuries to Egypt’s Ambassador to Canada, in Ottawa.

“Officially, discrimination is absolutely unacceptable,” Mahmoud El-Saeed said, after viewing the tape. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination on the basis of religion or any other matter so this is something we cannot accept.”

He added, “No one is persecuted.” In an interview, El-Saeed gave his word that, if anyone in authority is responsible for man’s injuries, they will be punished.

“If we (in Cairo) know the details, we definitely would investigate and justice would take place,” he said. “Torture is a very serious crime, which no one condones. The fact is that any police officer who is convicted of torture is severely punished.”

One Free World International has also shown the evidence to officials in Ottawa. CTV News asked Immigration Minister Monte Solberg what he was going to do about it.

“Anytime these kinds of allegations are made and people produce evidence, obviously we take it very seriously,” Solberg told CTV News. “My department is looking at it and we are gathering the facts. Obviously, if we find there are grounds to it, we will take appropriate action.”

Solberg would not elaborate on what action that might be, however, the Foreign Affairs department has a range of options available.

“Canada is the conscience of the world and the temple of human rights,” said El Shafie, of One Free World International. “I believe that Canada can use the relationship with Egypt to release this man and to bring him here to Canada if he’s willing and if they really want to bring him here.”

The man’s lawyer believes Solberg’s department could also take action on its own.

“They could instruct the embassy to issue a temporary resident permit,” said Desloges. “It could be done in a couple of days and they could bring him back here if there was the political will to do it. It can be as quiet as they want it to be.”

The man’s supporters want to get him out of Egypt as soon as possible, with or without Ottawa’s help. Desloges hopes he can get back to Canada and make another refugee claim, this time with evidence.

“I’m afraid they may torture him again,” she said. “I’m afraid they may even kill him. Before the federal government gets its act together to give him what he needs to get him out of there. That’s my biggest concern right now.”

El Shafie added, he is staking his organization’s reputation on the authenticity of the evidence they have.

“If I manufactured this evidence and later on the Egyptian government succeeded to prove that it’s wrong, this will not help my cause. It would destroy my cause.”