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Media Release

Maher Arar wants to know why Canadian officials asked
for his Syrian interrogation report

Read it in pdf here

For immediate release 21, April 2005

Ottawa — Maher Arar is once again raising questions concerning the exact role of Canadian diplomats in foreign countries. Documents released by the Arar Commission today reveal new information about how former Canadian Ambassador to Syria, Franco Pillarella, asked Syrian officials for, received and personally delivered what was called a summary of Maher Arar's "confession" to Canada.

Documents show that when the former Ambassador met with an unnamed Syrian official on October 22, 2002, the official informed him they were still interrogating Arar, and “promised to pass on to me any information they may gather on Arar’s implication in terrorist activities.” A few days later on November 3, the former Ambassador asked for a "resume of information obtained from Arar so far" that he personally delivered to Canada.

"While I was perishing in a Syrian dungeon Mr. Pillarella asked for my interrogation reports, and there is no evidence in the documents that he was at all concerned with the methods they were using to get that information," said Maher Arar. He also questioned whether the ambassador was acting on his own, or on behalf of other agencies.

“Foreign Affairs officials were certainly well aware of Syria’s human rights record,” said Arar’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman, “ and what is more disturbing is that this information was brought back to Canada by the ambassador, handed over to CSIS and the RCMP and eventually leaked to the media, causing irreparable damage to Mr. Arar’s reputation.”

Arar and his legal team are also concerned with serious inconsistencies in the reporting and statements made about whether he was subjected to torture in Syria.

"Several of the documents indicate that while some Canadian officials were doing their job with integrity and honesty, others were either downplaying the level of abuse and torture Mr. Arar endured, or worse yet, impeding others' efforts to get Mr. Arar released," said Arar's lawyer, Marlys Edwardh.

The documents also reveal that one high-ranking DFAIT official said “it is impossible to preclude the outside chance that someone…might have shrugged, winked or through silence acquiesced to a USA question or decision.” Once again Mr. Arar poses to the commission the fundamental question needing an answer: “Were Canadian law enforcement and/or security agencies complicit in sending me to be interrogated in Syria using methods that would be prohibited under Canadian law?”

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Mr. Arar is not available for interviews at this time. To arrange an interview with Mr. Waldman or Mrs. Edwardh, please contact Colleen O’Connell, (613) 260-2222 or (613) 261-1454 (cell)