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Maher Arar

From Academic Kids

Maher Arar (born 1970) is a Canadian software engineer born in Syria. He was deported by the United States to Syria in 2002, causing a diplomatic crisis.

Contents

Early life and career

Arar holds both Canadian and Syrian citizenship. He was born in Syria, and moved to Canada at the age of 17 in 1988 to avoid mandatory military service requirements.

Arar earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering from McGill University and a master's degree from INRS Telecommunications in Montreal, and was employed in Ottawa as a telecommunications engineer. He is married to Monia Mazigh, who has a Ph.D. in finance from McGill. They have two young children: Bar‚a and Houd.

Detention and deportation

On September 26, 2002, he was detained by United States immigration officials while changing planes at JFK Airport while returning to Montreal from vacation with his family in Tunisia, where his wife was born. Immigration officials claimed Arar was an associate of Abdullah Almalki, a Syrian-born Ottawa man whom they suspected of having links to the al-Qaeda terror organization, and therefore suspected Arar of being an al-Qaeda member himself. When Arar claimed that he only had a casual relationship with Almalki (having formerly worked with Almalki's brother at an Ottawa high-tech firm), the officials produced a copy of Arar's rental lease from 1997 which Almalki had co-signed. The possession of this lease was later widely interpreted as evidence of complicity by Canadian authorities in Arar's detention.

After being held apparently without access to legal representation, and despite being a Canadian citizen travelling with a Canadian passport, he was deported to Syria on October 7 or 8. After his arrival in Syria, he disappeared. The Canadian government was not contacted about Mr. Arar's case until October 10, 2002, after his deportation. He was later discovered to be in a Syrian jail.

His deportation was condemned by the Canadian government and other groups such as Amnesty International, as was the American immigration policy involving racial profiling. On October 29, 2002, the Canadian foreign affairs department issued a travel advisory strongly cautioning Canadians born in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan against travel to the United States for any reason. (This development led to Pat Buchanan's "Soviet Canuckistan" comment.)

The American ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, later told Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham that all Canadian passport holders would be treated equally. However, incidents attributed to racial profiling continue to be reported. In November 2002, Canadian privacy commissioner George Radwanski recommended that birthplace information be removed from all Canadian passports in part because of such discrimination. (The recommendation was not heeded, but Canadian passport recommendations already allowed citizens to request that this field be left blank.)

Imprisonment

Arar remained imprisoned in Syria for over a year, during which time he alleges that he was tortured and forced to sign a false confession alleging he had trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

In Canada, the New Democratic Party (NDP) pressured the government to do more to secure his return to Canada. The London-based Syrian Human Rights Committee (considered a credible source of information by Amnesty International) reported at this time that Mr. Arar was severely tortured after being imprisoned, and continued to receive physical abuse from time to time. The Syrian ambassador to Canada denied this.

Arar's wife Monia Mazigh was responsible for a very visible and active campaign in Canada to secure his release.

Release and subsequent controversy

He was finally released on October 5, 2003, 374 days after first being deported to Syria. He immediately returned to Canada to be reunited with his wife and children.

Controversy continued after his release over the circumstances of his deportation. The United States claimed that the RCMP had provided them with a list of suspicious persons that included Mr. Arar's name. [1] (http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20031108.warar0811/BNStory/Front/) It was also discovered that Canadian consular officials knew that Mr. Arar was in custody in the United States but did not believe that he would be deported until he was. The Canadian government maintains that the decision to deport Mr. Arar was taken by American officials alone.

The Canadian NDP continued to push for a full judicial inquiry; in the meantime, Mr. Arar is examining the possibility of legal action against the United States, Jordan, and/or Syria. In December 2003, Ambassador Cellucci said that American domestic security will trump respect of Canadian citizenship and that the United States will not change its policy on deportations to third countries. [2] (http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/12/04/cellucci_passport031204) Prime Minister Paul Martin replied by demanding that Canadian passports be respected. [3] (http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/12/05/martin_cellucci031205)

In January 2004, Mr. Arar announced that he would be suing American Attorney-General John Ashcroft over his treatment, [4] (http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2004/01/22/ararsuit040122), but the US government has invoked the rarely-used State Secrets Privilege in a motion to dismiss the suit. To go forward in an open court, the government claims, would jeopardize its intelligence, foreign policy, and national security interests.

In yet another twist, an Ottawa Citizen journalist, Juliet O'Neill, who reported on leaks from security sources was investigated by the RCMP on January 21, 2004, to determine the source of the leak. The raid of her residence was condemned by journalists world-wide. [5] (http://www.thestar.ca/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1074726614045&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154) [6] (http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/56347/). On November 12, 2004, an Ottawa judge ruled that the RCMP must reveal much of the information that was used to justify the raid. The material had been sealed by a justice of the peace at the request of the police. Among the information that the government had tried to keep secret was the location of an RCMP building that has an RCMP sign on it.

On January 28, 2004 the government did finally announce that a full judicial inquiry would go forward. The Terms of Reference for the Arar Commission were announced on February 5, 2004. [7] (http://www.psepc-sppcc.gc.ca/publications/news/20040205_e.asp)

Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, ran unsuccessfully as the NDP candidate in the Ottawa South riding in the 2004 federal election.

TIME magazine chose Arar as Canadian Newsmaker of the Year for 2004.

Official investigations into Arar's case

Garvie report

On September 25, 2004, the results of an internal RCMP investigation by RCMP Chief Superintendent Brian Garvie were published. Though the version released to the public was censored, the Garvie report documented several instances of impropriety by the RCMP in the Arar case. Among its revelations were that the RCMP was reponsible for giving American authorities sensitive information on Arar with no attached provisos about how this information might be used, and that Richard Roy, the RCMP liason officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs, may have known of the plan of deporting Arar to Syria but did not contact his supervisors

Additionally, Deputy RCMP Commissioner Garry Loeppky lobbied hard, in the spring of 2003, to convince his government not to claim in a letter to Syria, that it "had no evidence Mr. Arar was involved in any terrorist activities" because Arar "remained a person of great interest".

In response to the Garvie report, Arar said that the report was "just the starting point to find out the truth about what happened to me" and that it "exposes the fact that the government was misleading the public when they said Canada had nothing to do with sending me to Syria."

Public inquiry

On June 14, 2005, Franco Pillarella, Canadian ambassador to Syria at the time of Arar's deportation, raised eyebrows when he said that he had no reason to believe Arar had badly treated, and in general had no reason to conclusively believe that Syria engaged in routine torture.

See also

External links

General

News coverage

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