His Year In Hell

Canadian Tells <B>Vicki Mabrey</B> That He Was Deported to Syria

Back in Canada, Monia was fighting for her husband's life. She marched in front of parliament, and protested in front of the U.S. embassy.

Eventually, she got the ear of then-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. On the floor of parliament, Chretien voiced mounting frustration with the U.S. The job eventually went to Gar Pardy, then one of Canada's top diplomats, to get answers from the Americans.

"The American authorities acknowledged this was a Canadian citizen that they were dealing with. He was traveling on a Canadian passport. There was no ambiguity about any of these issues," says Pardy, who believes he should have been sent to Canada, or dealt with under American law in the United States. But not sent to Syria.

But while Canadian diplomats were demanding answers from the U.S., it turns out that it was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had been passing U.S. intelligence the information about Arar's alleged terrorist associations.

However, U.S. government officials we spoke to say they told Canadian intelligence that they were sending Arar to Syria – and the Canadians signed off on the decision.

Pardy says if that's true, it would have been wrong all around: "I would dispute that the people who were making any statements in this context were speaking for the Canadian government. A policeman talking to a policeman in this context is not necessarily speaking for the Canadian government.

And the Canadian government wanted Arar back. It took a year and a week from the time Arar was detained in New York for Arar to be released. He arrived home in Canada dazed and exhausted.

Why did Syrian officials let him go? "Why shouldn't we let -- leave him to go? We thought that would be a gesture of good will towards Canada, which is a friendly nation. For Syria, second, we could not substantiate any of the allegations against him," says Moustapha.

He said the Syrian government now considers Arar completely innocent. But does he feel any remorse about taking a year out of Arar's life?

"If this was the case, it's not our problem," says Moustapha. "We did not create this problem."

60 Minutes II learned that the decision to deport Arar was made at the highest levels of the U.S. Justice Department, with a special removal order signed by John Ashcroft's former deputy, Larry Thompson.

At the time, Ashcroft said the United States deported Arar to protect Americans –- and had every right to do so: "In removing Mr. Arar from the U.S., we acted fully within the law and applicable international treaties and conventions that guide the activities of the United States in settings like that."

"I consider that really an utter fabrication and a lie," says Michael Ratner, Arar's attorney and head of the Center For Constitutional Rights.
Ratner says that it's illegal to deport someone to a country where he might be tortured.

Arar is now suing Ashcroft and several other American officials.

"They knew, when they were sending him to Syria, that Syria would use certain kinds of information-gathering techniques, including torture, on him. They knew it," says Ratner. "That's why he was sent there. That's why he wasn't sent to Canada."

Before deporting Arar to Syria, American officials involved in the case told 60 Minutes II they had obtained assurances from the Syrian government that Arar would not be tortured, that he would "be treated humanely."

"I don't think there should have been any ambiguity in the minds of people that something nasty was going to happen here," says Pardy. "The fact that you went looking for assurances, which is reflected here, tells you that even in the minds of people who made this decision, I mean, there were some second thoughts."

No one at the Justice Department would talk to 60 Minutes II on camera about Arar, but they sent us this statement saying: "The facts underlying Arar's case…[are]classified and cannot be released publicly."

"We have information indicating that Mr. Arar is a member of al Qaeda and, therefore, remains a threat to U.S. national security."

Despite the American accusations, Arar has never been charged with a crime and, today, he's free in Canada. He's afraid, though, that he might never be able to clear his name.

"To brand someone as a terrorist, especially after 9/11, is basically to destroy his life," says Arar.

Arar's case is unusual because he was sent directly from U.S. soil to Syria. But intelligence sources tell 60 Minutes II that since 9/11, the U.S. has quietly transported hundreds of terror suspects captured in different parts of the world to Middle Eastern countries for tough interrogations.