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Former detainees pry open torture inquiry

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    Former detainees launch legal gambit to pry open torture inquiry Andrew Duffy CanWest News Service Ottawa Citizen
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2008
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      Former detainees launch legal gambit to pry open torture inquiry
      Andrew Duffy
      CanWest News Service
      Ottawa Citizen

      Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin and Ahmed El Maati were on
      Parliament Hill to comment on the internal inquiry into their
      imprisonment and torture.

      OTTAWA - A federal inquiry into the overseas detention and alleged
      torture of three Arab-Canadian men has collected more than 26,000
      documents - none of which have been made public.

      A new legal application to make more of the inquiry's work public
      reveals that it now holds considerably more documents than the Arar

      But unlike the Arar commission, which reviewed 21,500 documents for
      national security concerns and then released heavily censored
      versions, the inquiry headed by retired Supreme Court justice Frank
      Iacobucci has not made public a single page.

      "It is obviously troubling," said Jasminka Kalajdzic, lawyer for
      Ottawa engineer Abdullah Almalki. "Our interpretation of the rules of
      the inquiry speak to a need for ensuring information that is essential
      to national security be kept private, but it cannot be that 26,000
      documents are all subject to a national security claim."

      The Iacobucci inquiry is examining the role of Canadian police, spies
      and diplomats in the detention, interrogation and alleged mistreatment
      of Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.

      The men allege that, much like Maher Arar, they were tortured in Syria
      for answers to questions that could only have originated from Canadian
      security agencies.

      In Almalki's case it has already been established by the Arar
      commission that the RCMP passed questions for him to Syrian Military
      Intelligence through Canadian diplomats. Last week, the men appealed
      to the prime minister to open the inquiry to public scrutiny, but
      Stephen Harper said Iacobucci already has a mandate broad enough to do

      Lawyers for the men and other intervenors have now launched a legal
      gambit to pry open the inquiry.

      They have have filed an application that seeks the names of all
      witnesses interviewed, the production of thousands of documents and an
      order for public hearings on issues that do not involve national security.

      Specifically, the men want public hearings on the conduct of embassy
      officials; the government's policy on torture; its information sharing
      practices with other countries; and any requests by Canadian officials
      for information from the three men while in detention overseas.

      In a joint legal submission, lawyers for the three men argue the
      commission has reached a "critical juncture."

      "The fact-finding work of the commission appears to be nearing its
      conclusion," the lawyers write, "and the applicants have yet to
      meaningfully participate in or contribute to the work of this commission."

      The secrecy that surrounds the commission, they contend, threatens to
      destroy public confidence in its work: "Secrecy fosters a belief that
      there is a cover-up."

      Commission counsel John Laskin, however, said the application seeks
      disclosure levels that exceed those of the Arar inquiry. The names of
      all witnesses who testified in-camera were never released in that
      inquiry, he said, nor were all documents disclosed.

      The Iacobucci inquiry has so far interviewed about 40 witnesses in-camera.

      Laskin said Wednesday no documents have been released because the
      commissioner is determined to avoid the time-consuming process of
      reviewing them for national security concerns. A "large proportion" of
      the documents, he said, fall into that category.

      Iacobucci was appointed by the federal government to lead an "internal
      inquiry" into the three cases in response to a recommendation by the
      Arar commission. He ruled in late May that the inquiry will be held
      largely in secret in keeping with his mandate.

      Legal documents filed with the Iacobucci inquiry also show concerns
      have been raised about the thoroughness of the commission's
      fact-finding. The inquiry initially did not include former RCMP
      commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli and Insp. Michel Cabana on its
      interview list. Cabana was the leader of Project A-O Canada, an RCMP
      special investigative unit created one month after the Sept. 11, 2001,
      terrorist attacks. Almalki was the principal subject of the A-O Canada

      Laskin said on Wednesday that both Zaccardelli and Cabana will be
      interviewed - in part, because of the concerns expressed in
      off-the-record discussions and correspondence.



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