Torture Case Puts Spotlight on U.S. Extraditions Officials are investigating the case of a Canadian citizen, suspected of having a link to al-Qaida, who says he was tortured after being extradited by the United States to his birth country of Syria. Canadian officials later determined that the allegations of terrorist links against Maher Arar were false.
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Torture Case Puts Spotlight on U.S. Extraditions

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Torture Case Puts Spotlight on U.S. Extraditions


Torture Case Puts Spotlight on U.S. Extraditions

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In Canada, a government commission has found that a Canadian citizen seized by U.S. authorities and sent to Syria was the victim of bad intelligence.

Maher Arar, a Syrian émigré living in Ottawa, was placed on a watch list by Canadian law enforcement after 9/11. A year later, he was arrested by U.S. officials at Kennedy airport in New York. They sent him to Syria where he was held for a year.

Mr. Arar says he was interrogated and tortured. The Syrians finally concluded he didn't know anything about terrorism. They released him and allowed him to return to Canada.

Paul Cavalluzzo is lead counsel for the Canadian commission that looked into this case. He joins us by phone from Ottawa.

Mr. Cavalluzzo, welcome to DAY TO DAY. What are the commission's principle findings?

Mr. PAUL CAVALLUZZO (Lead Counsel, Canadian commission): I think the principle findings relate to information sharing between Canadian agencies and foreign agencies - in particular, American agencies. And certainly, the key thing is that information sharing, obviously, is vital in respect of national security investigations.

However, it has to be done in accordance with certain safeguards, the first one being that the information should be accurate.

CHADWICK: How did Mr. Arar wind up on this watch list?

Mr. CAVALLUZZO: He was having a coffee with an acquaintance in a coffee shop in Ottawa, and the acquaintance was a suspect in a national security investigation by the RCNP in Canada. And after that situation, he became a person of interest, and information sharing took place between the Canadians and the Americans.

CHADWICK: So when you look at this exchange of information about these individuals and what went on, what do you conclude is the basic problem? Where did things kind of go awry?

Mr. CAVALLUZZO: What happened shortly after 9/11 was that the Canadian government passed new anti-terrorism legislation, and, in effect, brought the RCNP back into the national security business so that the investigators conducting this national security investigation may have been fine criminal investigators, but had little experience in national security investigations. And as a result of that, had really no appreciation as to the consequences of sharing inaccurate and sometimes inflammatory information with the Americans in the year 2002, when you were conducting such practices as extraordinary rendition.

CHADWICK: Mr. Arar is now living in British Columbia. His wife has found a teaching position at a university or a college there. This is in some way, now, in the past for him, but I wonder what you think his life as a Canadian citizen can be like from here out.

Mr. CAVALLUZZO: Since he has returned to Canada in October of 2003, he has not been able to find any employment whatever. Hopefully in the future, he can turn a new page and move on, but one wonders whether that will ever be the case. His name will be forever marked in Canadian history.

CHADWICK: When U.S. authorities arrested Mr. Arar four years ago, did the U.S. government call up Canada and say, hey, we've got one of your guys and we think he might be a terrorist? He was on your watch list, and we're going to hold him. We're going to do something with him.

Mr. CAVALLUZZO: In fact, an hour before Mr. Arar landed at JFK, the FBI notified the RCNP that Mr. Arar would be landing in New York. And what they didn't do, unfortunately, was completely apprise the Canadians what they were doing at the back and that is to render him to Syria. They finally found out a day after the fact, and the Americans at that time still wouldn't tell the Canadian authorities where he had been sent.

CHADWICK: Has there been any suggestion within the government of Canada that maybe Canada should be less cooperative with U.S. authorities if you can't get straight answers to questions?

Mr. CAVALLUZZO: We just expect our neighbor in accordance with due process principles. And unfortunately in this particular occasion, you didn't. And in the future as to what this brings, obviously Canadian agencies will be far more circumspect in respect to the information they give Americans.

CHADWICK: Paul Cavalluzzo, lead counsel for the Canadian government inquiry commission that looked into the case of Maher Arar.

Paul Cavalluzzo, thank you.

Mr. CAVALLUZZO: Thank you, Alex.

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