World News

Canada to apologize to Arar, pay compensation: CBC

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will formally apologize on Friday to software engineer Maher Arar, who was deported to Syria by U.S. agents after Canadian police mistakenly labeled him an Islamic extremist, and offer him C$10 million ($8.5 million) compensation, according to media reports.

Maher Arar pauses during a news conference in Ottawa December 12, 2006. Canada will formally apologize to Arar on Friday, who was deported to Syria by U.S. agents after Canadian police mistakenly labeled him an Islamic extremist, and pay him C$10 million ($8.5 million) compensation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Arar, who says he was repeatedly tortured during the year he spent in Damascus jails, had initially sued Ottawa for C$400 million, a figure he later cut to C$37 million. CBC Television said the settlement would be for C$10 million, while CTV said Ottawa would also pay Arar’s C$2 million legal bills.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make a statement on the case at 12:15 p.m. (1715 GMT).

The affair tarnished the reputation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and strained Canada’s relations with the United States, which has kept Arar on a security watch list even though Ottawa insists he has no links to terror groups.

CTV said Harper was likely to criticize Washington’s stance, something which could prove useful politically. Critics regularly accuse Harper’s Conservative government of being too close to President Bush.

“I think it (the settlement) is wonderful because it will hopefully put this thing behind Mr. Arar and he can live his life now like a normal Canadian,” Paul Cavalluzzo, lead counsel for an official probe into the affair told CTV.

“He suffered severe economic -- and most importantly -- psychological damage as a result of what occurred to him.”

Harper’s office and a spokeswoman for Arar both declined to comment on the reports.

Arar was arrested during a stopover in New York in 2002 on his way home to Canada from a holiday.

The official probe found that the Mounties had wrongly told U.S. border agents that Arar was a suspected Islamic extremist and it slammed the police for incompetence and dishonesty.

Canada’s top Mountie resigned in December over the issue.

Ottawa is also probing claims by three other men who say they were tortured in Syria because of information provided by Canadian authorities.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has promised to keep pressing Washington to have him removed from the security watch list, something the U.S. ambassador to Canada has described as “presumptuous.”

U.S. officials say Arar will remain on their list because of unspecified information possessed by law enforcement agencies. Arar is also suing the United States for damages.