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Canadian Wrongly Accused, Probe Finds

September 19, 2006|From Reuters

OTTAWA — Canadian police wrongly identified an Ottawa software engineer as an Islamic extremist, prompting U.S. agents to deport him to Syria, where he was tortured, an official inquiry concluded Monday.

Maher Arar, who holds Canadian and Syrian citizenship, was arrested in New York in September 2002 and accused of being an Al Qaeda member. In fact, said the judge who led the investigation, all indications are that Arar was innocent.

Arar, 36, says he was repeatedly tortured in the year he spent in Damascus jails, and the investigators agreed that he had been tortured. He was freed in 2003.

Judge Dennis O'Connor, who was asked by the Canadian government in 2004 to examine what had happened, found that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had wrongly told U.S. authorities that Arar was an Islamic extremist.

The inaccurate information was "totally unacceptable" and guaranteed that the United States would treat Arar as a serious threat, O'Connor said.

"I am able to say categorically that 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," he said.

Civil rights advocates said the case of Arar and three other Canadians who ended up in Syrian jails raised suspicions that Canada might be outsourcing interrogation to nations where torture is common.

O'Connor said the cases of the three other men were troubling and warranted further investigation.

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