Canadian's deportation causes furor
By PETER CHENEY
Saturday, October 12, 2002 - Globe and Mail
Foreign Affairs officials are demanding that Washington explain why it has
deported a respected Canadian engineer to Syria after he was seized by
U.S. investigators and accused of having links to al-Qaeda.
Maher Arar, a 32-year-old Canadian citizen, was arrested at New York's
Kennedy Airport on Sept. 26, subjected to a series of lengthy
interrogations, then deported to Syria, where he had lived until the age
Mr. Arar's family says that for more than a week they had no idea what
happened to him.
"He just disappeared," Mr. Arar's wife, Monia, said from Tunisia, where
she was vacationing. She'd gone there on an extended holiday with Mr. Arar
and their two children. "The whole thing is insane. My husband is a
father. He works. He isn't a terrorist."
"The Canadian embassy in Washington is vigorously pursuing the question of
the whereabouts of this Canadian citizen at a very senior level,"
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said last night.
"This was a breach of Canadian sovereignty," said Riad Saloojee of the
Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada. "This deportation was
illegal, and it has placed the life of a Canadian citizen at risk. We are
gravely concerned about the U.S. deporting a Canadian citizen without
consulting the Canadian government."
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Arar was travelling to Montreal after a
visit with his wife's family in Tunisia. After being seized by U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service officers at the airport, he was
jailed at New York's Metropolitan Detention Center.
At the jail, he was able to make contact with Canadian consular officials,
who last saw him on Oct. 3. They later heard that he had been deported to
"This is a very, very strange case," said Michael Edelson, an Ottawa
lawyer who knows Mr. Arar. "You have to ask yourself what's going on when
the U.S. is able to take a Canadian citizen and send him to Syria without
any kind of representation."
Sources familiar with the case said Mr. Arar had been subjected to a
nine-hour interrogation after being arrested, with no lawyer present. He
was accused by American investigators of knowing a suspected terrorist in
the Ottawa area.
Mr. Arar, who lives in Ottawa, is a highly regarded telecommunications
engineer who had recently set himself up as an independent engineering
consultant after a career with large firms.
Mr. Edelson said he found it hard to imagine Mr. Arar as a terrorist
suspect. "We are talking about a very respected, solid citizen here."
Mr. Arar's wife said she was upset over both her husband's disappearance,
and the diplomatic issues it raises. "It's not just my husband. It's the
consequences for everyone else. I can't believe that the U.S. is prepared
to deport people to Syria when they are citizens of another country."
Mr Saloojee said Mr. Arar may face severe punishment at the hands of the
Syrian government because he avoided compulsory military service before
leaving the country as a teenager.
Mr. Arar's sudden deportation has prompted Ottawa to ask for an
explanation from Washington about what happened.