CANADA: FOUR MEN HAUNTED BY TORTURE
Jailed in Syria. Canadians suspect RCMP, CSIS; file suit
Abdullah Almalki often shrinks from the distress of his children,
terrified by the memories their crying unleashes.
Almalki, 35, a Carleton University graduate and a father of six,
endured 22 months in Syrian jails where, he says, he was repeatedly
tortured and interrogated based on information that could only have
originated with Canadian security officials.
Among the worst parts of his experience, he says, were the cries of
other men being tortured, and the wailing of women and children held
in nearby cells.
"I used to hear constantly the screams of other people being tortured.
I can't forget the kids I saw in that place," he told a news
conference on Parliament Hill yesterday.
Almalki is one of four Arab-Canadian men who suspect Canadian security
officials were complicit in their arrest and torture overseas.
The best known member of that group is former Ottawa computer engineer
Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian deported from the U.S. to Syria in
October 2002. Arar's experience is the subject of a federal commission
of inquiry, headed by Justice Dennis O'Connor, which is expected to
report next week.
Almalki hopes that report will recommend an independent public review
of his case and those of Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.
The men have also filed a civil suit against the Canadian government
that they intend to pursue if federal officials refuse to examine the
larger pattern of foreign arrests, detentions and torture.
Almalki was joined at the news conference by El-Maati, 41, a Toronto
truck driver and former mujahed (guerrilla fighter); Alex Neve,
secretary general of Amnesty International Canada; Faisal Kutty,
vice-chair of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations;
Shirley Heafey, former chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission;
and former solicitor general Warren Allmand.
Neve said evidence presented at the Arar inquiry suggests Arar's
detention and torture in Syria "may well have been part" of something
wider and deliberate.
"Sadly, Maher Arar was not the only Canadian with a story to tell,"
Almalki, El-Maati and Nureddin were all arrested after entering Syria
between 2001 and 2003. At the time, all three men were the subject of
national security investigations in Canada.
They were all Canadian citizens.
Neve believes the federal government must explore the possibility that
the men were detained and tortured in Syria to further a Canadian
national security investigation.
El-Maati told reporters that his life has been shattered by his
experience, which has left him with knee damage and other injuries. He
spends most of his time, he said, visiting doctors and physiotherapists.
"All I want to know is who is responsible for what happened to me
because I don't want this to happen to anyone," he said.
El-Maati was detained in Syria on Nov. 12, 2001, when he travelled to
Damascus for his wedding. He was later transferred to a prison in
Egypt. Plans for his wedding were abandoned during his incarceration,
which didn't end until Jan. 11, 2004.
"My heart was broken,"
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