TOPICS > World

Inquiry Finds Canadian Terror Suspect Wrongly Accused and Tortured

September 20, 2006 at 5:10 PM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: This week, Maher Arar got what he wanted.

MAHER ARAR, Subject of Canadian Government Commission Report: I wanted to clear my name. Today, Justice O’Connor has cleared my name and restored my reputation.

JEFFREY BROWN: On Monday, a Canadian government commission report concluded that Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was wrongly accused of having ties to terrorism by Canadian officials and improperly taken by U.S. authorities to the Mideast, where he was tortured.

MAHER ARAR: They beat me with a cable. They also, you know, kicked me and punched me.

JEFFREY BROWN: Arar, a 36-year-old computer software engineer and father of two, was returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia in September 2002 when he was detained by U.S. authorities during a stopover at New York’s Kennedy Airport.

Acting on information from Canadian intelligence that Arar had ties to al-Qaida, U.S. officials questioned him, then flew him to Jordan. From there, he was driven to Syria, where Arar says he was held prisoner for some 10 months in a tiny cell. He was released in October 2003.

MAHER ARAR: I had thoughts of committing suicide because, you know, the psychological torture in that cell was so awful to the point where, you know, it just — you know, it is really beyond human imagination.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Canadian investigation, led by Justice Dennis O’Connor, was sharply critical of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for its role in gathering and passing on incorrect information on Arar.

DENNIS O’CONNOR, Chair, Arar Commission: There is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada.

JEFFREY BROWN: Arar is now seeking compensation and an apology from the Canadian government. In Washington yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked about the case.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. Attorney General: We were not responsible for his removal to Syria. I’m not aware that he was tortured, and I haven’t read the commission report.

Mr. Arar was deported under our immigration laws. He was initially detained because his name appeared on a terrorist list, and he was deported according to our — according to our laws.

JEFFREY BROWN: In Ottawa yesterday, Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, addressed the issue in the House of Commons.

STEPHEN HARPER, Prime Minister of Canada: Mr. Arar has been done a tremendous injustice. We all know this took place during the period of the previous government.