22.9.06

Torture Exhibit A

TomPaine.com - Torture Exhibit A:

The debate over whether the United States can legally torture terrorism suspects will soon move from the Senate—where a flawed compromise has been reached—to the House. In this debate, the tragic case of Maher Arar should be Exhibit A. The American mainstream press has front-paged the exoneration of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was flown to Syria, imprisoned in a coffin-size cell and tortured for 10 months until the Syrians released him without charges. But headlines such as the one topping a New York Times editorial last week—“Tortured by Mistake”—are missing some larger points.

Most media accounts of Arar’s ordeal have attributed this travesty to faulty intelligence passed to U.S. authorities by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the RCMP. The Mounties characterized the now 37-year-old engineer as 'an Islamic extremist individual,' and placed him—and his entire family, including a six-month-old infant—on a U.S. al-Qaida no-fly watchlist.

Arar was detained by U.S. authorities at JFK International Airport in New York in 2002 after returning from a trip to Tunisia en route to his home in Ottowa. He was questioned for 12 days without access to counsel, and then flown on a U.S. government plane to Jordan, and finally overland to Syria.

Indeed, the Canadian information was grossly incorrect. The chairman of the two-and-a-half-year investigation, Ontario Justice Dennis O'Connor, concluded that 'categorically there is no evidence' that Arar did anything wrong or was a security threat.

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