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Thursday, September 26, 2002

Incident: Arar is detained at New York's JFK airport, sent to Syria, tortured

According to press reports after Maher Arar's release, on this day Arar is detained by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization officials at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport while returning alone to Montreal from a family vacation in Tunisia. A citizen of both Canada and Syria, he is carrying a Canadian passport. American officials allege Arar has links to al-Qaeda and detain and question him.

On 10 October 2002, Canadian officials will be informed that Arar has been deported to Syria. High level discussions begin between Ottawa and Washington.

Over one year from now, Arar will return home to Montreal. Upon returning, he will claim to have been mentally and physically tortured and forced to sign documents. His allegations will include being:

  • strip-searched;
  • given an unknown 'vaccination' which left his arm red for a fortnight;
  • kept in a basement cell (3 by 6 by 7 feet) with no light for 10 months, and let out only for interrogations;
  • repeatedly and severely beaten during interrogations;
  • hit with two-inch thick black electrical cable on the palms, hips, lower back, which left bruises for several weeks;
He alleges that this torture compelled him to falsely confess to going to Afghanistan and training camps.

Arar claims that beatings would subside for the few days before consular visits. During these, he was compelled not to tell about the torture he had endured and witnessed. He spent the time in the meeting weeping, unable to explain the cause of his sorrow.

He also learns of the treatment of other detainees. He claims to have heard continuous screaming from other rooms, and a man's head being repeatedly bashed against a desk. He also meets an acquaintance, Abdullah Almalki, after being moved to another prison, who said he was held at the same facility. Arar describes Almalki as emaciated and weak, and Almalki claims to Arar to have been severely tortured with the cable and the "tire" (a device in which detainees are restrained, and the soles of their feet beaten, c.f. Driss bin Lakoul' claims, entry on 31 January 2003).

Maher Arar plays with his children Baraa Arar, 7 (L), and Houd Arar, 2, in his home January 14, 2004 in Ottawa, ON.


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