Saturday, January 27, 2007

A New York Times report on Arar settlement

You would think that the NEw York Times would at least not get basic details wrong. It sounds as if Arar was just sent from the New YOrk airport to Syria. He was held for days interrogated many times and then tried in an immigration court who found him to be a member of Al Qaeda and then he was flown by the CIA to Jordan and then transported and routinely roughed up on the way to Syria. Syria is mentioned as a place where the rules on torture are more relaxed! That is a nice way of putting it. As Senator Leahy put it the US knew that Arar would be tortured in SYria. By the way Arar was supposed to have legal counsel at the immigration hearing but conveniently the lawyer learned of the hearing only after it was held just as Canadian intelligence authorities found out that Arar was going to Syria only when he was on the plane to Jordan.

Canada apologizes, pays millions to U.S. terror suspect

New York Times

OTTAWA — Maher Arar, the Canadian software engineer who was detained by U.S. officials in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was jailed and regularly tortured, will receive $9.75 million in compensation from the Canadian government, under a settlement announced Friday.

The compensation ends a lawsuit brought by Arar and follows a recommendation from a judicial inquiry that the expulsion to Syria was caused by false assertions by the Canadian police to U.S. officials that Arar was an Islamic extremist linked to al-Qaida.

Arar, traveling on a Canadian passport, was pulled aside by U.S. immigration agents in New York as he changed planes on his way to Ottawa from Tunisia. He was instead flown by private jet to Syria, his birthplace.

The Canadian judicial inquiry cleared Arar of any terrorism connections in 2006, and concluded that anonymous Canadian officials had orchestrated a defamation campaign against him following his return from Syria in October 2003.

As he announced the settlement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a formal apology to Arar, his wife and two children.

"On behalf of the government of Canada, I want to extend a full apology to you and Monia as well as your family for the role played by Canadian officials in the terrible ordeal that you experienced in 2002 and 2003," Harper said in Ottawa.

Arar, whose career was destroyed by the episode and who has suffered emotional problems since returning to Canada, said the government's apology was more important for him than the settlement.

"The government of Canada and the prime minister have acknowledged my innocence," Arar told a separate news conference. "This means the world to me."

"The struggle to clear my name has been long and hard," he said. It has "taught me how important it is to stand up for human rights," he added.

After apologizing, Harper renewed calls for the United States to remove Arar from its terrorist watch list.

"Canada fully understands and appreciates and shares the United States' concerns with regard to security," he said. "However, the Canadian government has every right to go to bat when it believes one of its citizens has been treated unfairly by another government."

Arar's case is an example of "extraordinary rendition," a covert U.S. practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation. Often those countries have more relaxed rules regarding torture.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff have told Canadian officials that Arar is still on the watch list because of information about him obtained independently by U.S. authorities.

After reviewing a confidential file on Arar, Stockwell Day, Canada's public safety minister, said that it contains "nothing new" that justifies blocking Arar from entering the U.S.

This week, David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, publicly rebuked Day. "It's a little presumptuous for him to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country," Wilkins said at a news conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

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