For immediate release
September 20, 2006
Chad Campbell, NPR
CANADIAN MAHER ARAR ADDRESSES HIS IMPRISONMENT AND THE REPORT THAT EXONERATED HIM
ARAR SAYS U.S. SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE
INTERVIEW WITH MAHER ARAR AIRS ON NPR'S ALL THINGS CONSIDERED TODAY -- WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 20, 2006
Excerpts Transcribed Below; Audio of Complete Interview to be Available after 7:30pm ET at www.NPR.org
Washington, D.C.; September 20, 2006 – Syrian-born Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, imprisoned and tortured in Syria in 2003, discusses his exoneration by a Canadian commission’s report earlier this week and why the U.S. needs to be held accountable in an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered today, Wednesday September 20 (local station's program schedules are available at www.npr.org/stations). In the interview, Arar tells NPR's Melissa Block that he believes it was “really outrageous” that U.S. officials didn’t believe he would be tortured when they sent him to Syria and that Americans are the “ultimate people” responsible for sending him there. Additionally, Arar expressed surprise with the commission’s determination that his wife and two children were added to watch lists at the time of his detention.
Transcribed excerpts of the interview are below. Check www.NPR.org for stations and times of All Things Considered. The audio of the complete interview will be available at www.NPR.org after 7:30pm (ET). All excerpts must be credited to NPR's All Things Considered.
· When asked if there were any surprises in the Canadian Commission’s report, Arar said, "The most surprising for me was that they placed my name, as well as my wife's name and my kids' names on a watch list. That was extremely shocking, given the fact that my daughter was only six years old at the time and my son was six months old at the time.” He added, “How many other innocent people and innocent kids and babies are on this type of watch list?”
· In discussing the U.S. involvement, Arar said, “I would like to emphasize that the ultimate people who are responsible for sending me to Syria are American officials. They are the ones who made the decision to send me to Syria against my will. Even though the false information came from Canada.”
· In response to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales comments about his case, Arar said, “Well, the facts speak for themselves, you know. I was not afforded due process in the States, while I was there. You know, I asked for a lawyer. I didn't have full access to my lawyer. I requested to make a phone call to my family, and only seven days after my arrest I was allowed to make a brief phone call. I complained to them about the fact that if they send me to Syria I'll be tortured. And finally they bundled me on a private jet to send me to Syria, where I was tortured. I mean, the report clearly concluded that I was tortured. And for him to say that, he does not know about the case or does not know that I was tortured is really outrageous.”
· When asked what he is seeking from his lawsuit against the U.S., Arar stated, “I would like the American people to understand that there are innocent people getting caught in the so-called war on terror, and if governments make mistakes or they send people to torture, their officials need to held accountable. And one way of doing that is through a lawsuit.”
· When asked what life is like now, Arar said, “One of the damning conclusions of the inquiry report is that some Canadian officials leaked false information to the media after I returned to Canada to essentially damage my reputation. So as a result, I have not been able to find a job. This has created a lot of stress within my family and it was devastating from psychological and financial point of view. So I would like, you know, that I hope one day I'll be able to work as engineer like I used to be, fly freely, you know, walk freely, and just be able to enjoy life like everyone else.”