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Arar inquiry blasts RCMP for triggering deportation, torture
Janice Tibbetts and Neco Cockburn
CanWest News Service

CREDIT: CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward
Maher Arar arrives at the Ottawa airport early Sunday morning Sept. 17, 2006 from his Kamloops, B.C. home. Arar is back in Ottawa to hear the findings of the Arar Inquiry on Monday. The inquiry probed the 2002 arrest of Canadian Arar in New York on suspicion of terrorism. He was deported to Syria where he spent about a year in custody and says he was tortured.
OTTAWA  — False information given to American authorities by an inexperienced RCMP anti-terrorism team, which tagged Maher Arar as an “Islamic extremist,” very likely set off a chain of events that led to his deportation and torture in Syria, an inquiry has found.

An exhaustive report also unequivocally cleared Arar, a Syrian-Canadian, of any links to terrorism and suggested that federal compensation is in order for his one-year ordeal in a Syrian jail.

“I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada,” wrote inquiry head Justice Dennis O’Connor.

The RCMP bore the brunt of blame in the 1,200-report, crafted after a public inquiry was ordered to get to the bottom of how Arar was arrested by U.S. authorities in September 2002 while travelling through New York’s JFK airport and deported to Syria.

He was released a year later, without charges, and returned to Canada.

The report stressed there is no evidence that Canadian officials “participated or acquiesced” in the U.S. decision to bundle Arar on a plane and send him to Syria.

The Mounties, however, failed Arar, a former Ottawa engineer who recently moved to Kamloops, B.C., by advising American officials to put him and his wife, Monia Mazigh, on a border “lookout” list in October 2001, a month after the terrorist attacks in the U.S.

“The requests indicated they were part of a group of Islamic extremist individuals suspected of being linked to al-Qaida, a description that was inaccurate, without any basis and potentially extremely inflammatory in the United States in the fall of 2001,” the report said.

“The RCMP had no basis for this description, which had the potential to create serious consequences for Mr. Arar in light of American attitudes and practices at the time.”

O’Connor went on to conclude that “it is very likely that, in making the decisions to detain and remove Mr. Arar, American authorities relied on information about Mr. Arar provided by the RCMP.”

The RCMP alerted the U.S. only two weeks after identifying Arar as a “person of interest” as a result of a three-hour meeting with another Ottawa man who was a terrorism suspect.

The Ottawa-based anti-terrorism team that the RCMP formed on the fly in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks  — Project A-O Canada  — was inexperienced, lacked training in national security and even neglected to follow their own policies, the report found.

“It was incumbent upon the RCMP to ensure that the project received clear direction and proper oversight with respect to the unique aspects of a national security investigation that fell outside the previous experience of the great majority of the officers,” the report said.

“In this regard, the RCMP failed completely, particularly in the critically important area of information sharing with American agencies.”
© CanWest News Service

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