Canadian Maher Arar, a software engineer, was detained in a New York airport in 2002 as he was changing planes to fly home when he was seized, denied legal representation and deported back to Syria, his birthplace where he was tortured for ten months before cleared of all charges. The Canadian government apologized and awarded him $10 million in compensation. Secretary of State admitted the case was mishandled but refused to issue an apology. Mr. Arar is now suing former Attorney General Ashcroft, the ex-heads of homeland security, immigration and the FBI. The courtroom where the case is being heard exploded in laughter when Ashcroft’s defense lawyer said Arar was “clearly and unequivocally a member of Al Qaeda.” Judge Rolbert Sack responded to the lawyer, “That’s a shocking statement for you to start with.”
The three judge of the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals is trying to determine if the xcivil case can be revived after it was thrown out by a lower court in 2006 on grounds to hear such a case endangered national security relations with Canada. This is the first court case to challenge the “extraordinary rendition” program which has sent hundreds of innocent people to countries where they were tortured. David Cole, a lawyer for Arar, noted, “Torture is illegal in the United States and it is illegal for U.S. officials to outsource torture.” The defense argues the American government can not be held responsible for torture that happened elsewhere. Apparently, according to the Bush administration it is OK to send someone to be tortured just as long as someone else does the torturing.