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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 00:13 GMT
Canadian sues US over deportation
Maher Arar
Maher Arar says he is fighting to clear his name
A Canadian man who says he was tortured in Syria after being deported by the American authorities has launched a lawsuit against top US officials.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and FBI Director Robert Mueller are all named in the lawsuit.

Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was returning from a holiday in Tunisia in 2002 when he was arrested in New York.

He was deported to Syria, where he was held for 10 months.

The US Department of Justice has said it has information that Mr Arar is a member of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and remains "a threat to national security".

The persons who sent me to Syria knew that I would be interrogated under torture there
Maher Arar
The lawsuit filed in a federal court in New York is the latest development in a case that has strained relations between Canada and the US.

Mr Arar, now 33, was arrested while changing planes at New York's John F Kennedy airport in September 2002.

He alleges that while in US custody he was not afforded even basic rights.

"From the moment I was held in the United States I was treated as though I was a convicted terrorist," he said at a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday.

"I endured hours of interrogation. I was chained and shackled."

Inquiry

After almost two weeks Mr Arar was deported to Syria, not Canada.

The lawsuit says US officials knew that the country was practising torture.

He was released after 10 months in a Damascus prison, where he says he was beaten with cables and forced to sign a confession linking him to al-Qaeda.

Mr Arar says he is not asking for a specific amount of money, leaving that to the courts. The most important thing is to clear his name and show he is not a terrorist, he insists.

In Canada, the case has led to calls for an inquiry into the possible role of intelligence officials in the deportation.


SEE ALSO:
Canada condemns US deportation
06 Nov 03  |  Americas
Deported Canadian returns home
07 Oct 03  |  Americas
US sanctions against Syria closer
16 Oct 03  |  Middle East
Country profile: Syria
15 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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