The Canadian government withheld information about a Canadian businessman being tortured while held in custody in the United Arab Emirates without being charged, a human rights lawyer claims.

Salim Alaradi has been in custody for 17 months. His family is in Windsor, Ont. Last September, the family hired Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ.

Champ claims the Canadian government knew Alaradi was tortured, but did not tell the family until he became involved in the case as their lawyer.

"In some cases, the Department [of Foreign Affairs] will try to suggest that there's privacy issues, but this isn't the kind of information that they should be withholding, in my opinion," Champ said in a phone interview with CBC. "Although it's very difficult information, it's information that, in my opinion, a family deserves to know."

Alaradi's daughter, Marwa, confirmed with CBC that the family hired Champ in the fall and said "the torture allegations are credible and serious."

CBC News has not seen evidence of torture.

In a statement, Ottawa says it "takes allegations of mistreatment and torture extremely seriously."

It also said "privacy considerations, including the wishes of the individual, govern which consular information may be shared and with whom."

"Canadian officials at very high levels have raised with UAE authorities our concerns regarding Alaradi's health, well-being and consular access," the statement reads. "The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, is seized of the seriousness of Mr. Alaradi's case and is engaged in efforts to ensure a prompt and just resolution.

"Consular services are being provided to Mr. Alaradi and we continue our advocacy on his behalf."

Champ says the government is more active on the case now, but Alaradi remains in a "precarious position."

"I think there's new people on the case in the department, and they've been very responsive to us. Fortunately, they've also been able to gain access to Mr. Alaradi, and they've been seeing him on almost a weekly basis for the last couple of months," Champ said. "They are definitely treating the case far more seriously than they appear to have done in the past. Obviously, the family is happy about that."