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TORONTO (AP) — Canada's national police force is charging a former Syrian military intelligence officer in abstentia for allegedly torturing a Canadian engineer transferred by the U.S. to an overseas detention center.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Tuesday it has filed a torture charge against George Salloum for his alleged involvement in the torture of Maher Arar.
Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, says he was mistaken for a terrorist in 2002 when he changed planes in New York while returning to Canada from a visit to relatives in Tunisia. He was then sent to Syria, where he says he was tortured and forced to make false confessions about supposed links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
The Canadian government agreed to pay Arar $10 million and apologized to him for its role in the case. Syria has denied he was tortured.
A Canadian investigation found that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wrongly labeled Arar an Islamic extremist and passed misleading and inaccurate information to U.S. authorities. The inquiry determined that Arar was tortured, and it cleared him of any terrorist links or suspicions.
The fate of Salloum, whose whereabouts are unknown, is unclear as Syria remains engulfed in war. He's been charged in absentia and an international warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Monia Mazigh, Arar's wife, read a statement on behalf of her husband, who she says is trying to live a private life.
She said Arar welcomes the announcement of the charges because he says Salloum was directly responsible for his torture.
"It is my hope that George Salloum will be found alive, arrested and extradited to Canada to face Canadian justice," she said, reading her husband's statement.
Arar's lawyer Paul Champ said Arar has had a fraught relationship with Canadian authorities, but has been co-operating with them since filing a complaint in 2005.
Champ said Arar provided "lengthy and candid" interviews to the RCMP, responded to requests for information, reviewed photos, suggested contacts and handed over documentation.
Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada's secretary general, said U.S. and Canadian officials should be held accountable too.
A U.S. federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled Arar could not sue the United States.
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