Canadian "terror" suspect Arar cleared after one year of torture

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police bungled the case of Maher Arar leading to an innocent man being tortured in Syria following his deportation from the United States, according to the findings of the federal inquiry into the affair. Justice Dennis O'Connor's report, released yesterday, reveals that the RCMP erroneously told the United States that Arar was linked to Al Qaeda and wrongly described him as an "Islamic extremist individual".

"The potential consequences of labelling someone an Islamic extremist in post-9/11 are enormous" wrote O'Connor.

Based on information received from the RCMP, Arar was detained on September 16, 2002, during a stopover at JFK Airport in New York City. After being held in the US for two weeks he was deported to Syria under the US policy of "extraordinary rendition" and was detained in a Damascus prison for a year without charges and tortured before being returned to Canada.

"I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada," O'Connor wrote in his 822 page report. "This was not a case where investigators were unable to effectively pursue their investigative goals because of lack of resources or time constraints. On the contrary, Canadian investigators made extensive efforts to find any information that could implicate Mr. Arar in terrorist activities... The results speak for themselves: they found none," stated the report.

Arar, 36, was relieved by the findings and was tearful when he first read them.

"I think the Canadian public has always believed that I was innocent. But it's very different when it comes from a respected jurist like Justice O'Connor," he said saying also that the judge had "cleared my name and restored my reputation."