Arar inquiry asks for Syrian, U.S. co-operation

Maher Arar

CTV.ca News Staff
Updated: Fri. Jun. 18 2004 6:12 AM ET

Syria, Jordan and the United States are being asked by the Maher Arar inquiry to help determine what happened to the Ottawa man.

Formal letters are on their way to the three countries, said a Foreign Affairs Department spokeswoman.

Arar, 34, had stopped in the United States in September 2002 on his way back from a family holiday in Tunisia. He had been travelling on a Canadian passport. He was held briefly and questions about terrorism-related issues.

One reason the telecommunications engineer had come to the attention of authorities was that he had been travelling in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 -- the day the Pentagon and World Trade Center were hit by terrorists.

Following his detention by U.S. officials, Arar was deported by the U.S. first to Jordan and then Syria, the country where he was born, where he was held for 10 months and tortured. Arar has said he gave a false confession about involvement in terrorism.

In the two confessions, dated November 2002 and August 2003, Arar stated he had received military training at camps in Afghanistan.

Arar has since maintained he has had no involvement with any terrorist group or activity.

His lawyers want to find out if there's truth to allegations that Canadian officials allowed the U.S. to deport Arar to Syria.

"There are too many statements from too many sources pointing to a Canadian role -- an approval by officials of the decision to send Mr. Arar to Syria," they said in a written submission to the inquiry.

They also claim officials from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service visited Syria shortly after Arar arrived there.

"What were they doing there? Did they have any role in his interrogation?"

Ottawa announced a public inquiry into his case in early February.

The inquiry, headed by Justice Dennis O'Connor, received opening submissions from various parties on Thursday -- with the exception of the federal government.

Some of the groups involved are associated with the Arab and Muslim communities. Others want to put the Arar case in the context of the need to respect human rights while responding to the threat posed by global terrorism.

Public hearings are set to begin on Monday and will likely run well into the fall.

It will examine the facts of the Arar case and make some recommendations on the oversight of the RCMP with respects to national security investigations.

Besides the inquiry, Arar has filed suit against the Canadian and U.S. governments over his ordeal.

His wife Monia Mazigh, who fought a tireless battle to get him released from Syria, is running for the NDP in Ottawa South.

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