Canadian sent to Syria after tip: Guantanamo hearing

Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:55pm EST
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - U.S. authorities apparently were acting on a tip from a 15-year-old captive when they sent a Canadian software engineer to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured as a suspected terrorist, according to testimony at the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal on Tuesday.

Canadian captive Omar Khadr identified a drivers license photograph of Canadian software engineer Maher Arar as someone he thought he had seen at an al Qaeda safe house run by a Syrian man in Afghanistan in late September or early October 2001, FBI special agent Robert Fuller testified.

Arar was actually in Canada and the United States during that time, according to a Canadian government inquiry that formally cleared Arar of having terrorist links in 2006.

But Arar, who had been arrested by U.S. authorities during a stopover at JFK airport in New York in September 2002, was deported to Syria one day after Khadr identified his photo, lawyers in the Guantanamo court said.

Fuller's testimony came in a pretrial hearing for Khadr, who is now 22 and charged in the Guantanamo tribunals with murdering a U.S. soldier during a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002.

Khadr's lawyers contend he was tortured into confessing that he threw the fatal grenade, and want his confessions banned as evidence. A hearing on that request is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.

Fuller told the court he interrogated Khadr five times in Afghanistan in October 2002 in sessions he described as friendly and respectful, and that Khadr freely confessed to throwing the grenade.

The Canadian government concluded in its 2006 report Arar was arrested because the Royal Canadian Mounted Police falsely told U.S. authorities he was a suspected Islamic extremist. They paid Arar a settlement of C$10.5 million ($8.3 million).   Continued...

<p>In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by the U.S. Military, Canadian defendant Omar Khadr sits during a hearing at the U.S. Military Commissions court for war crimes, at the U.S. Naval Base, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 19, 2009. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool</p>