Dec 27, 2003 1:43 am


TORONTO, Nov. 4 -- A Canadian citizen who was detained last year at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as a suspected terrorist said Tuesday he was secretly deported to Syria and endured 10 months of torture in a Syrian prison.

Maher Arar, 33, who was released last month, said at a news conference in Ottawa that he pleaded with U.S. authorities to let him continue on to Canada, where he has lived for 15 years and has a family. But instead, he was flown under U.S. guard to Jordan and handed over to Syria, where he was born. Arar denied any connection to terrorism and said he would fight to clear his name.

U.S. officials said Tuesday that Arar was deported because he had been put on a terrorist watch list after information from"multiple international intelligence agencies" linked him to terrorist groups.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Arar case fits the profile of a covert CIA"extraordinary rendition" -- the practice of turning over low-level, suspected terrorists to foreign intelligence services, some of which are known to torture prisoners.

Arar's case has brought repeated apologies from the Canadian government, which says it is investigating what information the Royal Canadian Mounted Police gave to U.S. authorities. Canada's foreign minister, Bill Graham, also said he would question the Syrian ambassador about Arar's statements about torture. In an interview on CBC Radio, Imad Moustafa, the Syrian chargé d'affaires in Washington, denied that Arar had been tortured.

Arar said U.S. officials apparently based the terrorism accusation on his connection to Abdullah Almalki, another Syrian-born Canadian. Almalki is being detained by Syrian authorities, although no charges against him have been reported. Arar said he knew Almalki only casually before his detention but encountered him at the Syrian prison where both were tortured.

Arar, whose case has become a cause celebre in Canada, demanded a public inquiry."I am not a terrorist," he said."I am not a member of al Qaeda. I have never been to Afghanistan."

I'm so disgusted I don't even know where to begin. We might as well be a police state these days, huh?

Read the rest of the article -- if you've got the stomach for it.

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