OTTAWA: The Canadian government has apologised to three Canadians who were tortured in Syria and said it had paid them compensation to settle lawsuits. It provided no details on the settlements reached with Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.
An inquiry in 2008 led by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci found that Canadian officials contributed to the torture of the three men by sharing information with foreign agencies. Iacobucci concluded the men were brutalised while in Syrian custody and, in the case of El Maati, in Egypt as well. He cited the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Foreign Affairs Ministry for mistakes.
All three men have denied any involvement in terrorism and none has ever been charged. "Our clients are gratified to have received an apology from the highest level of the Canadian government," said Phil Tunley, lawyer for El Maati and Nureddin.
"They and their families are pleased that their long legal ordeal is over." Tunley declined to elaborate on the settlement. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland apologised to the men "for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to their detention and mistreatment abroad and any resulting harm."
"We hope that the steps taken today will support them and their families in their efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in their lives," the officials said yesterday. Legal actions filed by the three men had been stuck in the courts for years.
They sought compensation for experiences that they said shattered their reputations and left them physically and psychologically wounded. In statements filed years ago in the cases, the government had said that if mistreatment did occur, the responsibility rested with Syrian and Egyptian authorities.
Almalki, an Ottawa electronics engineer, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months. El Maati, a former truck driver, was arrested in November 2001 upon flying to Syria to celebrate his wedding nuptials that did not take place.
Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was detained by Syrian officials in December 2003 as he crossed the border from Iraq, where he was visiting family. He was held for 34 days in Syria in late 2003 and early 2004.