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Arar was held and questioned for 12 days at JFK and in a U.S. detention center. When U.S. authorities told him they were sending him to Syria, from which he had emigrated to Canada at age 17, the mild-mannered Arar broke down crying, protesting the Syrians would torture him.
Arar was shackled by U.S. authorities in the rear of a small jet and flown to Jordan. There, he was hit by Jordanian guards and questioned. Then he was blindfolded and driven to Syria, where his life descended into a hellish round of beatings and interrogation. He was punched and whipped with an electric cable. Desperate to stop the beatings, he confessed to having been trained in Afghanistan — a country there is no evidence he has ever visited.
The beatings quickly diminished, but for 10 months Arar was locked in a tomblike, rat-infested concrete cell just 3 feet wide and 6 feet long. The Syrians eventually required him to sign a confession and set him free. He returned to Canada in 2003, where he suffered from severe post-traumatic stress and was unable to work to support his family.
We know all of this because of a devastating new report by a Canadian judge, who heard testimony about Arar's case from more than 70 witnesses and had access to more than 21,000 documents. The judge concluded "categorically that there is no evidence" Arar was ever a security threat.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that the hand-over of Arar to the Syrians was a deportation, not a "rendition" — a controversial practice in which U.S. authorities turn over suspected terrorists to other countries.
In this case, that seems to be a distinction without a difference.