Canada

Ottawa calls inquiry into 3 Syrian detentions

The federal government has called an inquiry into the case of three other Canadians detained in Syria, as a separate inquiry released its second report on the Maher Arar affair.

The federal government has called an inquiry into the cases of threeother Canadians detainedin Syria, the public safety minister saidTuesday after a separate inquiry releasedthe secondreporton the Maher Arar affair.

Stockwell Day appointed former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to lead the inquiry involving Muayyed Nureddin, Abdullah Almalki and Ahmad El Maati.

Iacobucci will be asked to determine whether "the detention of these three individuals to Syria or Egypt resulted from actions of Canadian officials, particularly in relation to the sharing of information with foreign countries," Day told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa.

"The commissioner will be asked to determine whether those actions or the actions of Canadian consular officials were deficient in these cases. And third, he will be asked to determine whether any mistreatment of these three individuals in Syria or Egypt resulted from the inappropriate actions of any Canadian officials."

Daymade the announcement hours after the release of the second Arar report, which calls for an independent watchdog to oversee the national security activities of the RCMP.

Ararwas stopped at a New York airport on his way home from a vacation in September 2002. U.S. officials accused him of having links to al-Qaeda and rendered him to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for months.

Separate inquiry 'long overdue': Amnesty

The three men and international human rights groups have demanded their own inquiry following the recommendations of Justice Dennis O'Connor inArar's case.

Theyweredeniedstanding at the Arar inquiry. However, in his first report in September, O'Connor said their casesraised "troubling questions" about the role of Canadian officials,and added he hadheard enough evidence about their cases "to observe that these cases should be reviewed."

Civil liberties groups that havesupported the three men's calls for an inquiry welcomed the announcement, but said the questions surrounding their cases should have been answered more promptly.

"It is long overdue," Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada said following the announcement.

"These men have been pressing for a review of theirfiles in some cases for more than three years. It has had a terrible toll on them for having to wait that long."

Almalki was arrested after travelling to Syria to visit his dying grandmother in May 2003, andwas kept in custody for 22 months.

He previously told the CBC that Syrian interrogators beatthe soles of his feet with steel cables, trying to make him confess to being a member of al-Qaeda. He also said the Syrians told him they were getting their information from Canada.

El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested by Syrian officials while in Damascus to attend his wedding, and spent two years and two months in prison. Hehas said Syrian authoritiesthere knew his name and were waiting for him. He was also jailed in Egypt.

His ordeal began on Sept. 11, 2001, when two CSIS agents showed up at his door. He said they threatened him when he asked for a lawyer and implied he could be subjected to torture by secret police.

Nureddin, a Toronto-area geologist, was in Kirkuk in 2003 visiting family and friends. When he left Iraq for Toronto, he went through Syria, where he was arrested. He spent a month in jail and was released in January 2004.

He lateralleged he was tortured while in Syrian custody and demanded to be included in the inquiry into Arar's case.

Corrections

  • Canadians Muayyed Nureddin, Abdullah Almalki and Ahmad El Maati were not deported to Syria, as originally reported. They were detained in the country after either visiting or travelling through.
    Dec 12, 1970 3:10 PM ET

now