Maras family pleads to Belgian politicians for a prisoner exchange treaty with Egypt that can bring their son Leslie home

Sent On: 
Thu, 2019-02-21
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Belgian national Leslie Maras has been since 2006 in an Egyptian prison for an effort to take drugs into Egypt. Leslie’s case is not a human rights case but a humanitarian case. Leslie got into financial and relational problems in Belgium and got in touch with the wrong people who claimed they could “help” him find a “solution” to pay off his depts through taking drugs to Egypt. All circumstances indicated that this was a trap to get rid of Leslie. Leslie knew at that time nothing of Egypt and the harsh punishments in Egypt for any crime related to drugs. His working-class parents have since made all efforts to support Leslie, initially in court and later with requests for a pardon which, however, is not possible in Egypt for drugs related cases. Yet, since they did not know how to handle this case they have been ripped of by a first Egyptian lawyer, paid a lot of money for the second lawyer and now no longer can finance any legal support. Egyptian prisoners mostly live in overcrowded cells and depend on their families for food, medical and other support.  Leslie’s parents do not live in Egypt and need to pay for this to get this done. For how Leslie lives in prison see the reports of Henri Dubois and Joan Cabrera Robles. Leslie’s parents are only able to come once per year to Egypt to visit their son. They are old and frail and only God knows how long they will be able to keep supporting their son.


Former Egyptian Member of Parliament Dr. George Messiha and Egyptian lawyer Amal Daoud have spoken with Egyptian authorities and are ready to let Leslie return to his home country on condition there is a prisoner exchange treaty with Belgium. Intern Yūsuf R. Kāmil investigated the prisoner exchange treaties Egypt has with other countries which shows this is feasible. His report can be found here. But the Belgians need to start negotiating with the Egyptians.


A treaty was supposed to be the main topic in conversations between the Federal Prosecutor of Belgium and his Egyptian colleague in May 2018 but none of the delegation members mentioned it. [E-mail by FPS Foreign Affairs representative to Leslie's mother, January 4, 2019]


Thus, mother Brigitte Maras wrote the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, who responded on December 21, 2018, that Leslie’s transfer to Belgium is impossible since there is no treaty between Egypt and Belgium. He confirms that the Belgian Embassy will continue to support Leslie in prison and to draw the Belgian authorities’ attention to Leslie’s dossier. The Belgian Embassy is indeed doing its consular work in an excellent way but the minister speaks with no word about Belgian efforts to start negotiations for the much needed treaty.


In an email on January 9, 2019 a FPS of Justice Representative wrote to Leslie's mother that this needs a political decision. Government officials execute decisions and treaties. They don’t make them. That needs an initiative in the Belgian Parliament.


Leslie’s parents had thus far feared interviews with media, frightened that something could be mispresented and thus making it even harder for Leslie to return to Belgium, but now they decided to seek contact with the Gazet van Antwerpen. The Gazet van Antwerpen interviewed Leslie’s parents and requested information from the Foreign Ministry which resulted in a publication on February 18, 2019. This was translated with their permission and placed in Arab-West Report. For the full text click here. Following this publication ATV interviewed the parents.


We also translated excerpts of the correspondence between mother Maras and Belgian officials. To see these texts please click here and here.


We all hope this will soon come so that Leslie finally will be able to be close to his family and get ready for reintegration in Belgian society once his sentence has been completed.


February 21, 2019


Cleo Mampaey, post graduate legal translation Catholic University of Antwerp and interning with the Center for Arab-West Understanding


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report