World

Maher Arar tries to revive U.S. lawsuit

Lawyers for Maher Arar, a Canadian tortured in Syria on false terrorism allegations, appeared in a New York court Friday to revive his lawsuit against senior officials in the U.S. government.

Lawyers for Maher Arar, a Canadian tortured in Syria on false terrorism allegations, appeared in a New York court Friday to revive his lawsuit against senior officials in the U.S. government.

A legal team from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights isrepresenting Arar'scase in the U.S. Court of Appeals,arguing against alower court decision to throw out the suitbecause ofnational security and foreign policy concerns.

Maria LaHood, a senior attorney with the centre,arguedthe lower court denied Arar a fair hearing when it dismissed his suit against current and former members of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Following theappearance,LaHood said she was"optimistic" the court wouldreverse the lower court's decision.

"What was great about today was that the court really did seem to understand the grave injustice that took place here," LaHood told CBC News from New York.

Arar'slawyershave contendedthat protecting people from torture should override concerns about sensitive information.

"[Arar's]had the strength and the courage to stand up to the Bush administration, the most powerful government, unfortunately, in the world, and he's challenging them, trying to hold them accountable,"LaHood said.

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

He claims those who sent him to Syriarecklessly and knowingly intended to subject him to torture. Even before he was secretly whisked away to Syria, he was confined for 12 days in New York and alleges he had to endure cruel, inhumane and degrading conditions.

The three-judge panel will likely take several months to come to a decision, the CBC's Michael Colton reported from the courthouse Friday after the hearing.

Still on U.S. watch list

Arar is asking for a full trial, compensation and an admission of wrongdoing by two former cabinet secretaries, the director of the FBI and other officials.

LaHood said she hoped the courtswill ultimatelyforce the White House to acknowledge wrongdoing in the case and apologize to Arar.

"It's been clear all along the the Bush administration was not going to come along freely," she said.

Last month, in testimony by video-link to members of the U.S. Congress, Arar called the lawsuit the only chance he has to clear his name.

"The abuse, it's still ongoing because they have not allowed me to pursue justice in courts," he said.

Hewas not able toattendFriday's hearing because he's still on a U.S. watch list and barred from entering the U.S., despite being cleared of any terrorist ties by a Canadian inquiry.

Justice Dennis O'Connor led the public inquiry into the case and said misleading information provided by the RCMP "very likely" paved the way for U.S. officials to send Arar to Syria.

In January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology to Arar while announcing he will receive $12.5 million in compensation.

U.S. lawmakers made a public apology in mid-October during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing convened to discuss his deportation.

With files from the Canadian Press

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