An FBI agent who previously testified Omar Khadr identified fellow Canadian Maher Arar as someone he saw at al-Qaeda safe houses and possibly training camps in Afghanistan acknowledged on Tuesday the teen's identification of the Ottawa software engineer did not happen as immediately as he first stated.

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In a courtroom sketch, FBI agent Robert Fuller sits in the witness stand during a hearing for Canadian defendant Omar Khadr at a U.S. military commission at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Tuesday. ((Janet Hamlin/Pool/Associated Press))

Robert Fuller made the admission during cross-examination by Khadr's defence team at Khadr's preliminary hearing at the U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations agent testified on Tuesday that during an interrogation session in Afghanistan in 2002, Khadr came around to saying that on several occasions he had seen Arar, who was cleared of any links to terrorism by a Canadian public inquiry in 2006.

Khadr said he saw Arar at a safehouse in Kabul, and possibly at a training camp outside Kabul, Fuller said. Both facilities were run by al-Qaeda militant Abu Musab al-Siri.

The interrogations of Khadr took place at Bagram airbase beginning Oct. 7, 2002 — three months after the July capture of Khadr, who was then 15 and is accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. The U.S. Department of Defence interviewed Toronto-born Khadr about a dozen times after his capture.

Defence lawyer Walter Ruiz showed the commission a report written by Fuller right after his interrogation session with Khadr in Afghanistan, in which the agent wrote it took Khadr several minutes to identify the man in a photograph shown to him as Arar, the CBC's Bill Gillespie reported from Guantanamo Bay.

Ruiz also said Fuller's report is much more qualified than his testimony on Monday and only says that Khadr thought he saw Arar in an Arab safe house in Kabul.

Ruiz also pointed out that Fuller's report states Khadr said he thought he saw Arar in Afghanistan in September and October 2001, the CBC's Gillespie reported.

Ruiz suggested to the court that in September, Arar was in the United States, not Afghanistan, while the following month, he was under RCMP surveillance in Canada.

Interrogation took place day before Arar sent to Syria

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Maher Arar, seen in a December 2006 photo, was detained in New York on Sept. 26, 2002, on his way home from a family vacation, then later deported to Syria, where he was held for more than 10 months on suspicion of terrorist activity, and tortured. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Arar was detained in New York on Sept. 26, 2002, on his way home from a family vacation.

Fuller's first interrogation of Khadr about Arar occurred on Oct. 7, a day before U.S. officials sent Arar to Syria, where he was held for more than 10 months on suspicion of terrorist activity, and tortured.

Fuller testified he did not know whether the information he gleaned from Khadr played any role Arar's deportation to Syria.

The Syrian-born Canadian was later released and cleared of any connection to terrorism in 2006 by a Canadian commission that recommended he receive a $10.5-million settlement for the ordeal. The U.S., however, has refused to clear Arar's name.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday the federal government stands by the findings of commission head Justice Dennis O'Connor.

"On the basis of what Justice O'Connor found and what he did, we're quite satisfied with that," Cannon said.

"These are allegations and it's premature to make any comment on the outcome of this judicial process."

Arar has not publicly commented on the testimony at Khadr's hearing, but upon his return from Syria in 2003, Arar vehemently denied ever setting foot in Afghanistan or having any links to al-Qaeda or terrorism.

On Monday, Lorne Waldman, Arar's former lawyer, said former public safety minister Stockwell Day saw the "entire" U.S. file on Arar before the Canadian government apologized to Arar and compensated him.

"If our minister of public safety isn't willing to give this any weight, why should any Canadian give it any weight?" Waldman said.

On Monday, Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, the Pentagon-appointed lawyer who is defending Khadr, said that his client regularly lied to his interrogators to avoid being abused.

The Pentagon alleges Khadr, the only Westerner remaining in detention at Guantanamo, threw the hand grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in the aftermath of a battle. He is accused of:

  • Murder in violation of the law of war.
  • Attempted murder in violation of the law of war.
  • Conspiracy.
  • Providing material support for terrorism.
  • Spying.

Subsequent disclosures from the U.S. military have cast doubt on whether he threw the grenade.

The military commission process is part of an offshore legal system that U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to put in limbo, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Corrections

  • It was originally reported that the safehouse and training camp were run by al-Qaeda militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In fact, they were run by Abu Musab al-Siri.
    Jan 20, 2008 8:37 PM ET
With files from the Canadian Press