Man held in Syria questions Canada's role in 'torture by proxy'

A man who says he was subjected to 22 months of torture in Syria wants the Canadian government to appoint an investigator who can clear his name.

A man who says he was tortured while under arrest in Syria for 22 months, in a case echoing the treatment of Maher Arar, wants the Canadian government to appoint an investigator who can clear his name.

Like Arar, Abdullah Almalki says he was tortured by Syrians acting on unfounded allegations that Canadian intelligence agencies made about him.

"They told me multiple times they were getting their information from Canada," the 34-year-old Syrian-Canadian told the CBC Radio's The Current in an interview broadcast Tuesday morning.

"We need to know whether the Canadian government is involved in torture by proxy."

Almalki was arrested after travelling to Syria to visit his dying grandmother in May 2003, a few months after RCMP officers raided the Ottawa engineer's house in Canada as part of a national security investigation. He is a dual citizen of Syria and Canada.

Over the next 22 months, Almalki told The Current, interrogators beat the soles of his feet with steel cables, routinely punched and kicked him until he passed out, and kept him in a filthy, lice-infested cell.

He compared having his feet whipped to having someone "pouring lava on my soles," adding: "I flipped from the pain."

His questioners were demanding that he confess he was a member of al-Qaeda, Almalki said.

After being cleared by a Syrian court, Almalki was released a year ago.

Saying there's still a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head, he wants Ottawa to appoint a prominent person to investigate the role Canadian intelligence agents may have had in his ordeal.

"We need to know if our police agencies are taking advantage of Canadians travelling abroad to do to them what they cannot do legally to them in Canada."

Almalki, the father of five children with a sixth on the way, said he is still unable to work because of post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and the lingering effects of his physical injuries.

"It's very frustrating to live in a limbo," he said. "I need to clear my name.

"I need to know the truth. My family needs the truth. Every citizen of this country, and everyone who cares for this wonderful country, needs the truth."