Cases of detained Muslims tarnish Canadian Mounties’ image

Canada’s top law enforcement agency has been shaken by the aftershocks of its role in the abduction of a Canadian Muslim in 2002, when U.S. agents transported the man from New York for interrogation under torture in Syria.

Last week, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police resigned, even though he had already apologized publicly to the victim, Maher Arar. On Tuesday, the government announced new inquiries into the cases of three other Canadian Muslims who had been imprisoned in Syria, and a judicial commission recommended broad new oversight of the RCMP’s intelligence arm.

The spotlight on the RCMP resulted from a two-year judicial inquiry into the case of Arar, now 36, who was stopped while changing flights at an airport in New York City in 2002. The Canadian citizen was bound, blindfolded and spirited to his native Syria by U.S. agents for questioning about terrorism.

Arar was kept for 10 months, much of it in a coffin-like dungeon, and tortured before being released without charges to return to Canada. In September, the extensive inquiry concluded that Arar was an innocent computer programmer who was named as an “Islamic extremist” because of fabrications and incompetence by an overzealous Mountie intelligence operation.

Washington Post, 15 December 2006