Canadian Maher Arar Released by Syria

We hope you remember the sad case of Canadian Maher Arar. If not, please go here and refresh your memories.

We're very happy to learn that after a year in custody, Syria has released Arar and sent him back to Canada.

Maher was minding his own business, changing planes at JFK, when U.S. authorities seized him and deported him, not to Canada, where he had lived since 1988, but to Syria, where he had not been since he was a teenager.

The 32-year-old Ottawa engineer was returning, via Zurich, from a family vacation to Tunisia, when he was detained during a stopover at Kennedy airport in New York on Sept. 26, 2002. U.S. officials then deported him to Syria.

Arar was accused of having links to Al Qaeda, which his family and supporters deny. It was reported that Syria - which he had not visited since immigrating to Canada at 17 in 1988 - planned to try him for membership in a banned organization called the Muslim Brotherhood.

His case prompted an outcry from his family, opposition politicians, Arab-Canadian groups and Amnesty International, which claimed he had been beaten with sticks and cables and tortured by electric shocks while imprisoned by Syria.

Although negotiations had been ongoing between the Canadian government and Syria for many months, the telephone call to Canada advising of the release was apparently a surprise when it came on Saturday.

The minister denied a connection between Arar's release and the recent Israeli bombing of a target inside Syria. The air strike, which Israel claimed destroyed an Islamic Jihad training base, was in retaliation for a suicide bombing Saturday that killed 19 Israelis.

Maher Arar will not be detained further when he gets home. He will return to his family.

[thanks to Damned Foreigner for the link]

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