Thursday, January 18, 2007

Update On The False Arrest & Torture of Maher Arar

As regular readers of this blog recall, I have been following the story of the false arrest and torture of Canadian citizen, Maher Arar.

Last September, I shared a Washingpost article that reported that Canadian intelligence officials had issued a report that concluded that they had passed false warnings and bad information to American agents about Muslim Canadian citizen, Maher Arar.

The Canadian report also concluded that after receiving this information, U.S. authorities turned Mr. Arar over to the Syrians who in turn detained and tortured him.

According to the Washingpost article, "The report, released in Ottawa, was the result of a 2 1/2-year inquiry that represented one of the first public investigations into mistakes made as part of the United States' "extraordinary rendition" program, which has secretly spirited suspects to foreign countries for interrogation by often brutal methods. "

After the charges against him were found to be groundless by Canadian intelligence, Mr. Arar filed a lawsuit in US court for false imprisonment. The court dismissed his case on the grounds of "national security".

Well today, Maher Arar may have come one step closer to getting the justice that he so richly deserves.

On CNN's situation room, correspondent Kelli Arena reported on a heated exchange between US Senator Patrick Leahy and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about Mr Arar's arrest and subsequent torture by the Syrians. Here is an excerpt from that broadcast.

Aired January 18, 2007 - 16:00 ET

First this hour, a vivid reminder that the new Democratic leaders in the Congress have plenty of bones to pick with the Bush administration.

It happened on Capitol Hill today, just a few hours ago, when the attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That's when the questions and the fir started flying.

Let's turn to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was the first time that the attorney general appeared before the Judiciary Committee since the Democrats took over control of Congress. And I can tell you, it was hardly a friendly reception.

Democrats pounced on several of the administration's anti-terror policies, including domestic wiretaps and the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay.

But the most heated exchange came when Judiciary Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy brought up a man named Maher Arar. Now, he's a dual Canadian and Syrian citizen and he was deported from the U.S. to Syria, where he says he was tortured. Arar was allegedly on a watch list for suspected terrorist ties. He's since been cleared by the Canadian government.

Listen to this, Wolf.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: We knew damn well if he went to Canada he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held and he'd be investigated. We also knew damn well if he went to Syria, he would be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Before you get more upset, perhaps you should wait to receive the briefing be...

LEAHY: How long?

GONZALES: I'm hoping that we can get -- we can get you the information next week.


ARENA: Now Gonzales and other U.S. officials have said that they got assurances from Syria that Arar would not be tortured. Leahy promised Gonzales that if he didn't get the information that he wanted within the week that he promised that he would hold a hearing on the issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's been cleared by the Canadian government.

But is there still suspicion in the Justice Department in the U.S. government that this individual may have had some links to terrorism?

ARENA: Yes. Actually, Senator Leahy today said that he is still on a U.S. watch list and he wanted to know why from the attorney general. But the attorney general refused to give any details about that case, at least in a public forum -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, maybe that's what he's talking about next week, they'll have a private briefing.

All right, thanks very much.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mr. Arar deserves a formal apology from the US Dept. of Justice.

Last October, I created a petition: "US Justice Dept. Owes A Formal Apology to Falsely Imprisoned & Tortured Canadian Citizen". Please take a moment to read about this important issue, and consider signing the petition. It takes just 30 seconds, but can truly make a difference. Please sign here:


Pamela Lyn

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