Canada panel finds for man falsely linked to 9/11

Thu Jul 24, 2008 4:13pm EDT
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Muslim Canadian has been awarded C$11,000 over an incident in which a co-worker falsely concluded he was involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks and reported him to police.

Ghassan Asad was a victim of racial profiling as an Arab immigrant who had traveled to the United States a month before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled on Wednesday.

The computer technician, a Jordanian raised in Saudi Arabia, had celebrated his becoming a Canadian citizen in August 2001 by making a trip from Vancouver to several eastern cities including New York and Washington.

"It was said by many that on that day (Sept 11), the world changed forever. That was certainly so for Mr. Asad," panel member Abraham Okazaki wrote in the tribunal's more than 200-page ruling.

A company receptionist with a "highly active imagination" suspected Asad was involved because he was a young Arab Muslim who had been critical of U.S. foreign policy, according to the ruling.

"Finally, she embellished that profile with exaggerations, assumptions and products of her imagination, spinning threads of innocent events into a web of suspicion around Mr. Asad," Okazaki wrote.

The woman contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who interrogated Asad on Sept 17, 2001, at his workplace, and the next day at a police station. No charges were ever filed and the RCMP never contacted him again.

The tribunal ruled that Asad's employer, Kinexus, a small biotech firm, failed to protect him from racially based accusations that had "poisoned" his workplace. It was ordered to pay him C$6,000 ($5,940) in damages and C$5,000 in costs.

The tribunal said there was no evidence Asad was discriminated against when he was eventually laid off, saying that was because of the company's financial situation.

A Kinexus official told the Vancouver Province newspaper that the company feels it did nothing wrong in its treatment of Asad and may appeal the decision.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)