TORONTO – An inquiry into the U.S. transfer of a Canadian citizen to prison in Syria found Canadian authorities gave misleading information to the Americans that likely led to the deportation, a report released Monday said.
After his release in 2003, Syrian-born Maher Arar made detailed allegations about extensive interrogation, beatings and whippings with electrical cable in Syrian prison cells.
Arar was traveling on a Canadian passport when he was detained at a New York airport in September 2002 during a stopover on his way home to Canada from vacation in Tunisia. He claims he was a victim of extraordinary rendition — or the transfer of foreign terror suspects to third countries without court approval.
Arar said U.S. authorities sent him to Syria for interrogation on suspicion of being a member of Al Qaeda, an allegation he denied.
Canada's federal government established an inquiry in 2004 to determine the role Canadian officials played in the case of Arar, who has been cleared of any terrorist connections.
Justice Dennis O'Connor released the report on Arar that concluded the Royal Canadian Mounted Police passed misleading, inaccurate and unfair information to U.S. authorities that "very likely" led to their decision to send Arar to Syria, but found no evidence Canadian officials participated in or agreed to the decision.
"It's quite clear that the RMCP sent inaccurate information to U.S. officials," Arar said. "I would have not have even been sent Syria had this information not been given to them."
O'Connor absolved Arar of all suspicion of terrorist activity and urged the federal government to offer financial compensation for his suffering. He concluded Arar had been tortured.
"I have waited a long time to have my name cleared. I was tortured and lost a year of my life. I will never be the same," Arar said. "The United States must take responsibility for what it did to me and must stop destroying more innocent lives with its unlawful actions."
O'Connor recommended that information never be provided to a foreign country when there is a credible risk that it will cause or contribute to the use of torture.
O'Connor sifted through thousands of pages of documents and sat through testimony from more than 40 witnesses. He delivered two versions of his report to the government: one classified, the other public. But portions of even the public edition of the long-awaited document will be withheld due to security concerns.