U.S. legislators apologize to Maher Arar
Maher Arar received a public apology from U.S. lawmakers on Thursday for beingdetained by the U.S. and deported to Syria, where he was tortured and interrogated on false terrorism allegations.
The apologies came during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing convened to discuss his deportation.
"Let me personally give you what our government has not: an apology," Democrat Bill Delahunt said as he opened the hearing.
"Let me apologize to you and the Canadian people for our government's role in a mistake."
Republican Dana Rohrabacher also apologized, but said he would fight any efforts by Democrats to end the practice of so-calledextraordinary rendition, wherebypeople suspected of terrorismare grabbed by government agents and taken to another country where local authorities may torture them.
"Yes, we should be ashamed" of what happened in the case, Rohrabacher said.
"That is no excuse to end a program which has protected the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of American lives."
Democrat Jerrold Nadler, who apologized to Arar, describedhis ordealas "a kidnapping."
He also said that he saw all of the classified information on the case onWednesday, and that while he couldn't talk specifics, he said "there is nothing there."
"I am not at liberty to reveal all the classified information, but I am at liberty to say … there is nothing there that justifies the campaign of vilification against your name … or justifies denying you entry into this country or characterizing you as a terrorist in any way."
Arar testified via video-link at the hearing since he is barred from entering the U.S., even though a Canadian public inquiry has cleared him of any connection with terrorism.
He thanked legislators for their apology before launching into the now familiar but still harrowing description of his ordeal.
He described the tiny, unlit "grave-like" cell where he was kept away from his family for nearly a year, and the physical and mental torture he suffered.
"I feel it is my obligation and moral duty as a human being to help prevent what happened to me from happening to other people," his statement read.
It was Arar's first appearance before a government body in the U.S.
Arar, a Canadian citizen who was born in Syria, was stopped at a New York airport on his way home from a 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.
Judge Dennis O'Connor, who led the public inquiry into the Arar case, said that 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.
The package includes $10.5 million for pain and suffering and another $2 million for Arar's legal fees.
With files by the Associated Press