Abdullah Almalki’s decade of unanswered questions

Abdullah Al Malki was tortured in Syria in hopes that he would answer the questions provided to the Syrian torturers by Canadian Security thugs, who had basically outsourced the torture of a Canadian citizen.

The reason Abdullah, who graduated from Carelton and lived in Ottawa, left Canada to go to Syria in the first place was to get away from the year-long harassment that him and his family, with young daughters, underwent non-stop from CSIS, RCMP and OPP agents who followed no rules or regulations themselves – evening tailing his wife and children into the Children’s Public Library in Ottawa. Screwing with his business, his internet connections, his sleeping patterns – agents parked outside his house 24 hours a day and tailing him every where he went. It was to get away from the Canadian Security thugs that Abdullah left Canada, and when he landed in Syria he was arrested by Syrian authorities based entirely on the assertations of the same Canadian Security thugs.

-tj

10 years after faulty Canadian intelligence left him imprisoned and tortured in  Syria, Ottawa businessman has received neither compensation nor apology

Andrew Duffy – Ottawa Citizen

May 2, 2012 – Ten years ago, late on the afternoon of May 3, 2002, Ottawa businessman  Abdullah Almalki disembarked from a plane in Damascus, Syria.

It was his first time on Syrian soil since his family had emigrated to  Canada. In the intervening 15 years, Almalki had graduated from Lisgar  Collegiate and Carleton University’s school of engineering. He’d married a  Carleton economics student, Khuzaimah Kalifah, launched an export business and  provided for his family. His wife had recently given birth to their fifth  child.

Almalki was in Syria to visit his ailing grandmother. His parents had already  arrived from Canada.

Almalki’s mother and his cousin were waiting for him as he was ushered into  the airport’s VIP lounge. Lounge staff brought him lemonade.

He embraced his relatives and, as they were discussing Almalki’s expanding  family, an airport security officer entered the lounge and asked him to  follow.

His cousin was restrained from accompanying Almalki into the security office.  Almalki’s mother was in distress.

“I did not know what to do. I kept on going around at the airport looking for  him, waiting for him, hoping to see him,” Almalki’s mother, Fatima, said in a  recent email. “I do not think there are words to explain a mother’s feelings in  a situation like the one I was faced with.”

Almalki was questioned at the airport, then taken to the Far’ Falestin  intelligence branch where he was led to an office and blindfolded. An  interrogator asked him about Muslim men in Canada, including Ahmad El-Maati of  Toronto. Almalki said he didn’t know El-Maati. (He knew him by a different  name.)

The interrogator slapped him hard across the face.

So began Abdullah Almalki’s nightmare. He spent 22 months in Syrian custody,  during which time he was held in a small, dark cell, questioned and  tortured.

Many of the questions emanated from Canadian intelligence which had been  shared with foreign agencies.

RCMP investigators sent three pages of questions for Almalki to his Syrian  captors in January 2003, even though they knew it could put him at risk of  torture. (At one point, the RCMP also considered inviting Syrian investigators  to Canada to share information.)

Almalki returned to Ottawa in August 2004 after a Syrian judge finally  cleared him.

Four years later, a federal inquiry determined that Almalki had been deeply  wronged: mislabelled an “imminent threat” by the RCMP and tortured in Syria due,  in part, to the actions of Canadian officials.

But unlike Maher Arar, who suffered a similar fate, Almalki has received  neither an official apology, nor a nickel in compensation. Why? Why has no one  paid for his ruined business, his damaged body and mind? How can the federal  government continue to justify what happened in the case?

These are the mysteries that now consume Almalki at the end of his decade of  questions.

Taking Action

Almalki launched a lawsuit against the federal government in 2005, an action  he put on hold while retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci conducted a  closed-door inquiry into his case and that of two other Arab-Canadians detained  and tortured overseas.

All three men were under scrutiny by the RCMP or the Canadian Security  Intelligence Service (CSIS) when arrested in Syria.

Almalki had fought hard for the inquiry since he was desperate to clear his  name and to understand why he had been tortured.

“It was a time when it was my word against everything that was being said,” Almalki remembers. “The sense of oppression and injustice was overwhelming.”

Iacobucci’s two-year inquiry concluded that the government was partially  responsible for what happened to the three men.

In Almalki’s case, Iacobucci said, the RCMP inaccurately labelled him in  reports sent to Syria as someone “linked through association to al-Qaeda” and an “imminent threat.”

Iacobucci said the RCMP also wrongly shared raw intelligence on Almalki with  U.S. agencies without imposing any rules about how that information could be  used.

Some of that information made its way into the hands of Syrian officials, who  used it to interrogate Almalki.

The report also exposed bureaucratic bungling that had terrible consequences  for him.

Before RCMP investigators sent questions to the Syrians for Almalki, they  consulted with officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International  Trade (DFAIT).

As a result, at least three DFAIT memos were drafted between Aug. 6 and Oct.  30, 2002, and sent to senior departmental officials. They warned that Almalki  could be tortured if the RCMP sent the questions.

A draft letter from DFAIT to the RCMP was prepared which urged investigators “in the strongest possible terms not to send the Syrian security services  questions to be put to Almalki.” The letter said it “would be contrary to  Canadian domestic law, international law and foreign policy for a Canadian  citizen to be questioned under duress at the behest of the Government of  Canada.”

That DFAIT letter, however, was never sent to the RCMP.

Explained Iacobucci: “There appears to have been a breakdown in communication  with DFAIT with respect to the proposed letter: each official involved in a  discussion about the letter believed that some other official was taking care of  the issue, or that the RCMP had decided not to send the questions after all,  with the result that the proposed letter was not sent to the RCMP.”

Instead, Canadian diplomats in Syria helped the RCMP deliver its question  list to Syrian military intelligence.

Consequently, Iacobucci said, the RCMP thought DFAIT had signed off on the  questions while the Syrians were likely led to believe that Canadian diplomats  weren’t serious about their demands to gain access to Almalki, who never  received a consular visit during his entire time in Syrian detention.

After the Iacobucci inquiry issued its final report, a Commons committee  recommended that the government apologize to Almalki and compensate him. That  report was endorsed by a vote in Parliament.

But the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen  to ignore that recommendation and contest Almalki’s lawsuit.

Almalki and his family are now seeking $100 million in damages. The  government has not explained its decision to deny Almalki a financial settlement  in the case.

But federal lawyers have filed a statement of defence, which speaks to the  government’s thinking.

“Canadian officials played no role in Almalki’s detention in Syria,” the  court document says. “They did not request that he be detained nor did they  support his detention when they became aware of it.”

The government contends the Syrians are responsible for whatever mistreatment  Almalki may have suffered.

The lawsuit is likely to continue for years since the government has refused  to accept the factual findings of its own $6 million inquiry.

It means all of the facts established by Judge Iacobucci during secret  hearings have to be re-established in court.

Meanwhile, Almalki has been receiving new documents in the case through  access-to-information requests. Last year, he obtained an RCMP memo, dated Oct.  4, 2001, in which an investigator concludes: “O Div. (Ontario Division) task  force are presently finding it difficult to establish anything on him (Almalki)  other than the fact he is an arab running around.”

Two other RCMP memos, issued before 9/11, similarly concluded that Almalki  committed no crime.

He’s now convinced that racism formed a potent mix with post-9/11 myopia to  cast him as a terrorist.

Almalki is among the most heavily-investigated individuals in Canadian  history. He was the principal target of an RCMP national security task force,  Project A-O Canada, in the aftermath of 9/11. (Two weeks after 9/11, the FBI  sent a letter to the RCMP describing Almalki as the “Ottawa-based procurement  officer” for Osama bin Laden.)

He was under scrutiny for at least six years by the RCMP, CSIS and the FBI.  His home has been raided, his friends and relatives interviewed, the contents of  his computers analyzed.

He has never been charged with a crime of any kind in Canada, nor an offence  under the country’s export laws.

The story he told a CSIS agent in 1998, when first interviewed by the spy  agency, has never changed: his business sold communications equipment to a large  Pakistani firm, Micro Electronics International, with ties to that country’s  military. Any equipment found in the possession of the Taliban came not from  him, but from Pakistan, he said.

Almalki is at a loss to understand why the government has yet to admit its  mistakes as it did in the case of Maher Arar. “Why? The answer is, ‘I don’t  know,’” Almalki says.

Arar was never labelled an imminent threat. The RCMP did not send Syrian  authorities questions to be put to him. Canadian diplomats visited Arar  repeatedly in Syrian prison.

“It’s mind-boggling,” says Almalki. “The complicity [in torture] in Maher’s  case was not comparable to the complicity in mine.”

Life Today

Almalki, his wife and six children now live in Ottawa with his parents.  Disability payments represent his primary source of income as he has been unable  to work since returning from Syria. He has exhausted much of his savings and  RRSPs.

His export business was destroyed during an incarceration which left him with  physical and emotional scars.

In Syrian custody, Almalki says, he was secured to a tire and his feet lashed  with cables. He was kicked into unconsciousness and suspended above the ground  by his wrists. He didn’t see the sun for six months.

In addition to headaches, he now suffers chronic pain in his shoulder, back,  foot and joints. “I’m not the same person in any respect as I used to be: not  mentally, not physically,” says the 41-year-old, who once considered himself a  workaholic.

He suffers nightmares and night sweats. He normally sleeps on a towel, but  rarely manages a full night’s rest: “I get up exhausted.”

Almalki has seen a raft of doctors, physiotherapists and psychiatrists for  his problems. “It has become a bit better: it’s a bit more manageable now,” he  says. “I’ve learned to live, I guess, with my disabilities.”

The Citizen contacted staffers in the offices of Public Safety Minister Vic  Toews and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. But no one would explain why the  government refuses to compensate and apologize to Almalki as recommended by the  Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Almalki contends the government could not justify its actions even if he was  the “worst criminal.”

“The fact that they are defending it, digging their heels deeper and deeper  and saying, ‘No, we are standing firm, we did not do anything wrong, we had the  right to do what we did, we had the right to be involved in torture,’ it just  says the government, their moral compass is ruined …

“This is a case that talks about us as a society: do we condemn torture or  not?”

Asked if he can win his case against a deep-pocketed government willing to  fight for every inch of legal ground, Almalki says he must.

“It would be a very sad day in our history here in this country if I  lose.”

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

This article appeared first at : http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Abdullah+Almalki+decade+unanswered+questions/6554911/story.html#ixzz1tuzntTk0

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Canadian Politics, Community Rights, Human Rights, Political Accountability, Security Issues

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s