Canada police sorry for Syria torture


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Canada police sorry for Syria torture, says US shares blame
by Michel Comte
Thu Sep 28, 9:49 PM ET

Canada's police commissioner apologized to a Canadian man deported by US 
authorities to Syria and tortured based on bad Canadian intelligence, but said 
the United States shared blame.

Giuliano Zaccardelli, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said he
was "truly sorry" for "the nightmare" Maher Arar experienced and for "whatever 
part" the federal police actions "may have contributed to the terrible 
injustices" his family endured.

"It is true that the early days after 9/11 were confusing and challenging. Of 
course this doesn't excuse or allow us to avoid facing head-on the ramifications
of that time," he told a parliamentary standing committee on public safety and 
national security.

Arar was stopped in September 2002 while he was travelling through New York, on 
his way to Canada from a trip to Tunisia, and was deported to Syria where he was
jailed and tortured for more than a year, said a Canadian report released 

Syria denies the torture claims and Washington has refused to accept blame for 
any wrongdoing in the case.

The 822-page report, which cleared Arar of terrorism ties, stated that US 
authorities had likely relied on faulty intelligence provided by Canadian police
to hold and deport the 36-year-old software engineer to Syria.

The Mounties had provided "inaccurate" information to US authorities saying Arar
was an "Islamic extremist" linked to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist group.

However, Zaccardelli said Thursday, US authorities were advised of the mistake 
while Arar was still in US custody in New York.

"When Mr Arar was in New York City, we clearly communicated with the Americans 
that there was false information there and we tried to correct that false 
information," he testified.

"I have no information, no indication as to why the Americans took the decision 
... to detain him and send him to Syria," he said.

"We have attempted to get that information. We have not gotten that," despite 
closer US-Canada security ties since 2002, he later told reporters.

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said last week: "We were not responsible 
for his removal to Syria," and added it was not a rendition, the transfer of 
alleged terrorists to CIA custody, as some alleged.

"It was a deportation," he explained. Arar is a Canadian citizen born in Syria.

Canadian police first identified Arar as a "person of interest" after spotting 
him talking to another alleged terror suspect outside an Ottawa restaurant, 
Justice Dennis O'Connor said in his report.

Zaccardelli testified on Thursday that he did not know definitively during 
Arar's detention whether he was involved or not in terrorist activities, when 
asked why he did not publicly defend Arar.

But, the Mounties are no longer investigating Arar or his family, he added.

Last week, Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Arar had been 
removed from Canada's security watch list and US Homeland Security Secretary 
Michael Chertoff was asked to do the same in the United States.

Day testified Thursday that three similar cases involving Canadians Abdullah 
Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin would be reviewed.

Each claimed to have been detained, interrogated and tortured by Syrian Military
Intelligence based on information that originated in Canada.

"The government is now pursuing the most efficient and most capable way of doing
(an independent review)," Day said. "It will be done."

He also said the Canadian government had "expressed its concerns to the 
government of Syria" about Arar's detention, but sidestepped queries about 
whether similar protests were made to Washington.

Arar, who sued the Canadian government for 400 million Canadian dollars (360 
million US) after his return in 2003, said O'Connor's report restored his 
reputation. No settlement has yet been reached.

He also lamented on US television that US authorities had still not acknowledged
their role in his ordeal.

In Canada, the case sparked a public outcry.

"Many thoughtful people have been struggling with the question of what is the 
appropriate role of a modern day police force," noted Zaccardelli.

"It is a terrible truth that we have had to acknowledge, that in the pursuit of 
justice against those who would destroy our way of life, innocent people can be 
swept up in our search to find those who might harm us. It happened in this 
instance," he said.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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