U.S. misled Canada over deportation: former RCMP head

Wed Sep 3, 2008 1:23pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's former top policeman alleges U.S. authorities misled him over the case of a Canadian man who was arrested in New York and deported to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

Giuliano Zaccardelli, the former head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said Washington "threw away the rule book" when it came to software engineer Maher Arar, who was arrested during a stopover at JFK Airport in September 2002.

Zaccardelli quit as RCMP commissioner in December 2006 after admitting he had misled Canadian legislators over how the force handled the affair.

An official report earlier that year concluded that U.S. officials acted after the RCMP falsely told them Arar was a suspected Islamic extremist. Zaccardelli says Canada was informed Arar would be set free.

"We are led to believe that he is going to be released and he is coming to Canada," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview shown late Tuesday.

Zaccardelli said the RCMP were so convinced Arar would be returned to Canada that they put together a surveillance team.

"We are waiting in Montreal for the plane to arrive with Mr. Arar getting off the plane. The plane arrives. Mr. Arar never gets off," he said.

Last year, Ottawa formally apologized to Arar and paid him C$10.5 million ($9.9 million) in compensation. Arar spent almost a year in prison before the Syrians freed him, and says he was repeatedly tortured.   Continued...

<p>Former Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli pauses during a news conference at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa December 7, 2006. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>