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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK
Canada clears 'al-Qaeda suspect'
By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

Maher Arar
Maher Arar claims he was tortured in Syria
A public inquiry in Canada has strongly criticised the country's authorities for wrongly accusing a Syrian-born Canadian of terrorism.

Maher Arar was arrested in New York in September 2002 and accused of being an al-Qaeda member.

He was deported by US officials to Syria where he claims he was tortured.

The inquiry absolves Mr Arar of any suspicion of terrorist activities and urges the Canadian government to compensate him financially.

In his long awaited public report, Justice Dennis O'Connor quite definitely concludes that Mr Arar is an innocent victim.

"I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada," he states.

Extraordinary rendition

The software engineer from Ottawa was on his way home from a holiday in the Middle East in 2002 and was arrested as he changed planes at JFK Airport in New York.

After being interrogated by US customs agents, he was deported not to Canada but to Syria.

The report has backed up Mr Arar's claims that he was tortured in Damascus before being released in 2003.

Justice O'Connor singles out Canada's national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), for particular criticism.

He said that the police shared inaccurate and unfair information with US authorities, although he does make it clear that Canadian officials did not encourage Mr Arar's deportation.

The report says that the Canadian government should assess Mr Arar's claims for compensation.

The inquiry only had the mandate to scrutinise Canadian agencies - it did not address the behaviour of US authorities for what appears to be a clear case of so called extraordinary rendition.

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