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|Canadian citizen detained in Syria released and en|
|10/05/03 at 21:01:41|
Canadian citizen detained in Syria released and en route home
Sunday, October 05, 2003
OTTAWA (CP) - A Canadian citizen deported to Syria by the Americans has been released after a year of imprisonment in his homeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham announced Sunday.
Maher Arar, a dual citizen of Canada and Syria, was en route home accompanied by a Canadian consular official, Graham said in a conference call late Sunday afternoon.
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.
It is not known whether Amercian officials were acting on intelligence information from Canada - or on a Canadian request to deport him.
Arar was accused of having links to al-Qaida, 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.
"He has been released, he has been put on a plane, he's presently in the air," Graham told reporters from Rome, where he was attending an annual Canada-European Union consultation.
Graham said he had spoken with Arar, who had been released into the custody of Canadian diplomats on Sunday by Syrian authorities.
An official accompanied Arar on the first available flight from Damascus to Canada, with a stopover in Europe, Graham said.
Graham also said he had phoned Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, to let her know that her husband was in good health and was on his way home.
In a statement, Mazigh said Sunday she was "very happy" to hear that her husband was returning and was "overwhelmed" by the support she had received from other Canadians.
"It's been 374 very long days, and that means there are 374 important reasons to get to the bottom of how and why this happened," she said.
Arar's family is expecting him to arrive at Ottawa's Macdonald-Cartier International Airport around 6 p.m. on Monday.
His release follows months of negotiations between Canadian and Syrian officials. But Graham dismissed the idea that flexing more diplomatic muscle would have hastened his freedom.
"I don't think . . . it would have been done any more quickly by more screaming and yelling. I really don't," he said.
"(Canada) is a respected country and people want to have good relations with us," he added.
"And that's how we keep good relations, by working within diplomatic channels that are there; not by making threats which in turn just cause people to get their backs up and not co-operate with you."
Graham said Arar would not be detained once he landed on Canadian soil.
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.
Graham said he received a call from the Syrian foreign minister on Saturday to say that a decision had been made to return Arar to Canada.
He was released early Sunday morning and spent the day at the Canadian Embassy in Damascus until a flight could be arranged, officials said. The plane left at 4:30 EDT.
"Canadians want to know that Canadians will be treated properly when they travel to these countries," Graham said.
"And in that sense, I think it is related to Canada's efforts to bring peace in the Middle East, Canada's reputation as a country, as a peacemaker that wants to work on behalf of everybody.
"And I think there's a recognition here by the Syrian authorities of a respect for the Canadian position. That's one reason why they took this step."
Prime Minister Jean Chretien had pressed Syria to allow diplomatic access to Arar, who was last seen by Canadians in April when two MPs visited and saw him crying.
Canadian officials said they saw no evidence of physical torture during previous visits, which were always closely observed by Syrian guards.
© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press
|Re: Canadian citizen detained in Syria released an|
|10/06/03 at 01:59:48|
wow i can't believe the things that are happening in the world :( it seems everyday it just gets worse... please everyone make dua for the beautiful syrian people and all the students of knowledge that are there from all over the world for the sole reason of studying the deen including my brother and sister in law.. may Allah protect them and keep them safe inshaallah
|10/06/03 at 02:00:41|
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