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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 October, 2003, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
Deported Canadian returns home
By Lee Carter
BBC correspondent in Toronto

A Canadian man who had been deported to Syria by US authorities is back in Canada after spending a year in a Damascus jail.

Maher Arar was deported to the Syrian capital in October 2002 by the US authorities after he was detained at New York's John F Kennedy airport.

He was accused of alleged links with al-Qaeda.

However, Mr Arar was never charged and a number of questions remain about his case.

At a brief news conference, Maher Arar and his wife thanked the efforts of all Canadians who had helped to ensure his release.

Mr Arar has lived for 15 years in Canada, having emigrated here with his family at the age of 17.

He holds dual nationality with Syria but had not returned to his country of birth since arriving in Canada.

No explanation

In September 2002, he was returning to Montreal from a holiday in Tunisia.

Travelling with his Canadian passport he was changing planes at New York's Kennedy airport, when US immigration officials detained him on suspicion of having links with al-Qaeda.

Ten days later he was deported without explanation, to Syria.

Mr Arar, who has two young children, was never charged either in the US or in Syria and he was not given any legal representation.

The Canadian authorities and his family were not initially told about the deportation and Amnesty International says there is credible evidence that Mr Arar was tortured in Damascus during his 374-day incarceration.

There is still no explanation as to why the US sent the man to Syria and not to Canada.

There are also allegations that the US authorities acted on a tip from Canadian police, allegations that have neither been confirmed not denied.

And there are questions about Mr Arar himself.

It is unclear at this point whether he will face any charges in Canada or whether he is now exonerated.

Maher Arar's story certainly raises troubling concerns about the impact of North America's domestic security measures in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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