US seeks dismissal in suit by “rendition” victim

The US government is seeking dismissal of a case brought by a “rendition” victim who says he was tortured in Syria, citing rarely used “state secret privilege.” US officials argued Aug. 9 in a Brooklyn court that the case should be dismissed because it would “force the government to reveal classified information” about the plaintiff’s alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Maher Arar, a Canadian software engineer who also holds Syrian citizenship, was detained when he was changing flights at New York’s JFK Airport to return to Ottawa from Damascus in September 2002. He was sent to Syria, where he says he was tortured for 10 months. Thanks largely to the efforts of his wife in Canada, he was eventually released by the Syrian government, which claims it did not torture him. Arar denies any terror links and was never charged with a crime. He now charges the US government with violating the Torture Victim Protection Act and his Fifth Amendment right to due process.

Both the Canadian and Syrian governments now say Arar has nothing to do with al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group, and Arar was named by the Canadian edition of Time Magazine as “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2004, calling him “a symbol of how fear and injustice have permeated life in the West since 9-11.” His case is also the subject of an ongoing inquiry in Canada. (CSM, Aug. 11, via TruthOut)

His suit, brought in US District Court in Brooklyn by the Center for Constitutional Rights, names former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former INS Commissioner James Ziglar, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other US officials. The suit seeks a court declaration clearing him of any association with terrorist organizations; a declaration of the unconstitutionality of his detention and rights violations; and unspecified monetary damages for economic losses and emotional and physical injuries. (See WW4 REPORT #95)

See our last post on the ongoing torture scandal.