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Prime Minister Stephen Harper has formally apologized to Maher Arar and offered him compensation of $10.5 million for the year of torture he endured in Syria.
As well, the government will be paying Arar's legal fees, reported to be about $2 million.
"On behalf of the government of Canada," Harper read from the letter sent to Arar, "I wish to apologize to you, Monia Mazigh, and your family for any role Canadian officials may have played in the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced in 2002 and 2003.
"I sincerely hope that these words and actions will assist you and your family in your effort to begin a new and hopeful chapter in your lives." In 2002, the Syrian-born Arar was deported by the U.S. to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured into making false confessions that he was involved with al Qaeda.
The software engineer, now living in B.C., was cleared by a judicial inquiry last fall. Justice Dennis O'Connor concluded that Arar was deported based on misleading information provided to the U.S. from the RCMP.
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Zaccardelli's role in the affair of Maher Arar has been the subject of intense speculation and controversy. Members of the House National Security have called his testimony in this matter "contradictory", with Liberal MP Mark Holland saying "We've now got Mr. Zaccardelli in my opinion perjuring himself before a parliamentary committee." Zaccardelli resigned from his post as Commissioner on December 6, effective December 15, 2006.
Despite being cleared of any terrorist links, Arar remains on the American watch list -- preventing him from entering the United States or even flying over its airspace.
Harper said efforts continue to convince U.S. counterparts to remove Arar from their watch list.
"This government reserves the right to disagree with the Americans when we have something substantial to disagree about," Harper told reporters.
"We were clear, we don't believe Mr. Arar should be on watch list. We articulated that at all levels of the government up to and including the president. And we'll continue to do so."
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins blasted Ottawa's efforts to have Arar removed from the list, saying Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day is "presumptuous" if he thinks he has a say in the matter. Wilkins said Day should back down, because an American assessment concluded Arar should remain on the watch list.
Day said last week he's seen all the U.S. information and found nothing new to suggest Arar is a risk.
But the ambassador says the U.S. found its own reasons to keep Arar on the watch list.
Arar has launched a separate lawsuit against U.S. officials.
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Originally posted by Duzey
This information that the American's supposedly have on Arar that justifies his continuing presence on the watchlist - would that be information that was extracted through torture?
Originally posted by Duzey
I can understand why the US is unwilling to look at this and acknowledge their own errors in judgment, because it makes them look like crap. I do hope that Harper keeps up the pressure on them, because it is completely deserved.
Harper's apology 'means the world': Arar
Maher Arar said his innocence has been confirmed by the formal apology Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued to him on Friday.
"This means the world to me," Arar said during a one-hour press conference in Ottawa on Friday afternoon.
Earlier Friday, Harper apologized and offered a $10.5 million compensation package to Arar and his family, along with money for legal fees, for the "terrible ordeal" they suffered after Arar spent nearly a year in a Syrian jail.
U.S. refuses to take Arar off watch list
The United States has not lifted its restrictions on Maher Arar, even though the Canadian government apologized to him on Friday and offered him a $10.5 million compensation package. Arar, a Canadian citizen who was born in Syria, was detained in 2002 by U.S. authorities who suspected him of terrorist links and deported him to his homeland, where he was jailed and tortured. Arar's name was later cleared by a Canadian judicial inquiry, which blamed his deportation in part on the RCMP.
The U.S. State Department said Friday it would keep Arar on its security watch list, even though Ottawa has been pushing for his name to be removed.
"We remain convinced that Mr. Arar's presence on the watch list is appropriate," the department said in a statement. "Ultimately, the United States will decide for itself who is or isn't on the watch list."
The U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, said the United States would not change its mind.
Originally posted by chissler
Removing Arar from the watchlist is the right thing to do, but that is not the big issue at hand for this administration. It's all about how it looks to the public. The general public does not want to see any individual with the last name Arar, with accusations of terrorist links, permitted in their country or air space.
Originally posted by Duzey
I don't think a majority of Americans would favour sending an innocent man off for torture in Syria, no matter what his ethnicity happens to be.
Maher Arar was awarded $10.5 million, plus legal costs, and an apology -- even though it was Syria that did the torturing and the U.S. that sent him there to be tortured, albeit with the help of false intelligence from the RCMP.
By comparison, Canada's 80,000 residential school survivors have been granted an average payout of $24,000 -- with the estimated 12,000 to 20,000 people who suffered physical and sexual abuse eligible for a few thousand more.
The court-ordered settlement, which took more than a decade to reach, has reportedly been tied up once again, this time by the Harper government appealing the amount of legal fees (up to $40 million) earmarked for a law firm with close ties to former PM Jean Chretien.
Canada did not imprison this man for a year, nor send him to be imprisoned, and yet his compensation package is richer than David Milgaard's, who spent 23 years in a Canadian prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder by Canadian courts.
Arar's payout is almost 10 times the amount awarded to Donald Marshall, who served 11 years in a Canadian prison for a crime he was falsely convicted of in a Canadian court.
And let's not even compare Arar's lottery-like windfall with the relatively modest amounts assigned to survivors of Canada's abusive residential school system.
Rich payout makes no sense
Morin was acquitted of murder at his first trial in 1986. The Crown exercised its right to appeal the verdict on the grounds that the trial judge made a fundamental error prejudicing the Crown's right to a fair trial. In 1987 the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. The retrial was delayed until 1992 by Morin's own appeals based on the Crown's non-disclosure of exculpatory evidence and by other issues, including the double jeopardy rule.
Morin was convicted at the second trial, but many believed him to be innocent. Unlike others convicted of murdering children after sexually abusing them, he was kept in the general population throughout his time in prison without being a victim of violence. Improvements in DNA testing led to a test in 1995 which excluded Morin as the murderer. Morin's appeal of his conviction was allowed and a directed verdict of acquittal entered in the appeal.
An inquiry into Morin's case also uncovered evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct, and of misrepresentation of forensic evidence by the Ontario Centre of Forensic Sciences.
In 1981, Barbara Stoppel was found unconscious, with twine wrapped around her neck, on the bathroom floor of the doughnut shop where she worked. The 16-year-old died six days later in hospital.
Sophonow, now 47, was tried three times for her murder. The first trial ended in a hung jury. He was found guilty in his second and third trials, but both verdicts were later overturned by appeal courts.
Sophonow spent four years behind bars until the Manitoba Court of Appeal acquitted him in 1985.