Government to compensate torture victims nine years after inquiry findings

OTTAWA — The federal government will give apologies and compensation to three Canadians who were tortured in Syria. 

The Canadian Press has independently confirmed a Toronto Star report that the government will settle lawsuits filed by the men over the federal role in their ordeals.

In October 2008, an inquiry led by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci found Canadian officials contributed to the torture of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin by sharing information with foreign agencies.

Iacobucci concluded the men were brutalized in Syrian custody and, in the case of El Maati, in Egypt as well.

The former judge cited the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Foreign Affairs for mistakes in the cases.

All three men deny involvement in terrorism and none has ever been charged.

Their legal actions have been grinding slowly through the courts for years. The three are seeking compensation for experiences they say shattered their reputations and left them physically and psychologically battered.

In statements of defence filed in the cases, the government said that if mistreatment did occur, responsibility rests with Syrian and Egyptian authorities.

There was no immediate word about when the settlements would be announced, or about the financial compensation involved.

Maher Arar, another Arab-Canadian who was abused in a Syrian prison, received an apology and $10.5 million from the federal government.

In June 2009, the House of Commons public safety committee recommended apologies and compensation for Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin.

The government rejected the call, saying it would be inappropriate to do so because the men were suing federal agencies.

The MPs also urged the government to do “everything necessary” to remove false allegations about the men and their families in records held by national security agencies.

Almalki, an Ottawa electronics engineer, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months.

El Maati, a former truck driver, was arrested in November 2001 upon flying to Syria to celebrate his wedding — nuptials that did not take place.

Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was detained by Syrian officials in December 2003 as he crossed the border from Iraq, where he was visiting family. He was held for 34 days in Syria in late 2003 and early 2004.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

The Canadian Press



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