Monday, January 22, 2007

Arar inquiry told Canadians were beggars not choosers in Syria

Reading this is sickening. Nothing happens to people such as Pillarella. He can perjure himself with immunity. At least the RCMP commissioner had to resign when he subsequently gave contradictory testimony. No one of those who provided false information to the US was ever disciplined. In fact some of the figures have been promoted since. This is an old article but still relevant.

Arar inquiry told Canadians were 'beggars, not choosers'
Last Updated: Thursday, June 16, 2005 | 8:43 AM ET
CBC News
The former Canadian ambassador to Syria says the country offered to allow a Canadian security officer to attend its interrogation of Maher Arar.
Franco Pillarella's admission came on a day that included some obvious contradictions in his testimony.

Pillarella says the offer was made by the head of Syrian military intelligence so that Canada could see that everything was being done above board.

Franco Pillarella, former Canadian ambassador to Syria.

In the end, nobody from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service sat in on the interrogation, though Pillarella did not explain why.

Pillarella was testifying in the inquiry looking into the arrest and deportation of Arar to Syria in the fall of 2002.

Arar, a Canadian citizen, was deported in September 2002 by U.S. authorities after they arrested him in New York as he was flying home to Canada. The Ottawa engineer spent almost a year in prison and says he was repeatedly tortured.

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Pillarella's testimony on Wednesday contradicted his testimony from a day earlier. He acknowledged that he knew of the detention camp where Arar says he was tortured, something he had categorically denied.

The Palestine Branch detention camp is mentioned as a torture centre in numerous reports on Syria by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Pillarella, who once headed the Human Rights Division at Foreign Affairs, was asked on Tuesday if he knew of it. He said, "No."

But when Arar's lawyer took up the same theme on Wednesday the answer changed. "I might have been aware of it ... yes," said Pillarella.

Pillarella also testified earlier that he did not dare ask the Syrians where Arar was being held, much less ask to see the conditions he was held in. He said Canadians were "beggars, not choosers" and did not want to risk offending the Syrians and losing contact with Arar.

"I was using every tool I had at my disposal and I must say I did not have that many."

But he revealed that the chief of Syrian intelligence had offered early in Arar's detention to allow a CSIS officer to personally attend Arar's interrogations. The general said he would only grant such a privilege to Canada, that he had turned down similar requests from the Americans and the British.

Canada never took him up on the offer.

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