Thursday, March 15, 2007

Almalki gives speech at Carleton University

As can be seen it is Al Malki's association with Khadr that is one of the main reasons that the RCMP connects him with Al Qaeda. Mahar in turn was guilty because he associated with Almalki albeit briefly. No one wonder Muslims tend to shun contact with any person ever accused of terrorism. You immediately become a person of interest if not a suspect yourself.
I doubt that Almalki will have much luck making hearings public. The other side will insist that for reasons of national security most of the hearings will be in camera. No doubt there will be one or two show public hearings to give the appearance of openness. Given that the report is to be in by the end of next January things will need to move along quickly.

Thursday » March 15 » 2007

'I have nothing to hide'
Victim of Syrian torture Almalki tells Carleton crowd federal government 'crushed' his rights

Andrew Duffy
The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, March 15, 2007

CREDIT: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen
Abdullah Almalki, 36, a Carleton University graduate, was the target of an RCMP national security probe that ensnared Maher Arar and ultimately led to his deportation to Syria. Mr. Almalki maintains that he has never been involved in terrorism.

Ottawa's Abdullah Almalki says he fears the "internal inquiry" into his arrest and torture will not afford the Canadian public the full story behind his ordeal.

Mr. Almalki, 36, a Carleton University engineering graduate, returned to his alma mater last night to recount the circumstances that put him at the centre of one of the most intense -- and controversial -- national security investigations in Canadian history.

He gave an audience of human rights students a detailed account of his 22 months of detention and torture in Syrian jails, and presented evidence as to why he believes Canadian officials were complicit in that mistreatment.

"My most basic fundamental human rights were abused," he told students at Minto Centre theatre. "Being protected from torture, the right to a fair trial, being protected from arbitrary arrest, these are rights that we should expect our own government to protect. In my case, my own government is the one who crushed them."

Mr. Almalki's allegations -- that Canadian officials were responsible for his arrest and furthered his torture -- will this year be the subject of a judicial inquiry by retired Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci.

That probe is being billed as an "internal" inquiry and most of its proceedings are expected to be held in-camera.

Mr. Almalki, however, hopes his lawyers can convince Judge Iacobucci to make the hearings public. The hearings are expected to begin next week as the judge decides who should have standing at the inquiry.

"We have the right as the Canadian public to know what the government is doing in our name," Mr. Almalki said last night. "As people living in a democratic society, don't we have the right to know what our government is doing? How else do we make decisions? It's our basic right."

Mr. Almalki said he is willing to meet all of the allegations that have been made against him in a public courtroom.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP believed Mr. Almalki was connected to al-Qaeda. But Mr. Almalki has always maintained that he has never been involved in terrorism.

"I am open. I have nothing to hide," Mr. Almalki said in an interview after his speech.

"It looks like the government is the one who has everything to hide. It is the government that is trying to keep things from the public. Ask yourself, what do they have to hide?"

The Iacobucci inquiry will examine Mr. Almalki's case and those of two other Arab-Canadian men, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, who were also arrested and tortured in Syria while under investigation by security agencies in Canada.

Mr. Almalki, who immigrated to Canada from Syria when he was 16-years-old, was the principal target of Project A-O Canada, an RCMP special investigative unit created one month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The unit's mandate was to investigate the activities of Mr. Almalki while working to prevent a terrorist attack on Canadian soil.

As Project A-O Canada's leader, Insp. Michel Cabana, later testified: "It was a race against the clock to ensure that nothing else happened."

Few of the 20 officers who would work on Project A-O Canada had previous experience in national security investigations.

The principal focus of their work was Mr. Almalki, then an Ottawa businessman and father of four. He had first attracted the attention of Canadian intelligence agents in the late 1990s because of his export business, which sent communications components to Pakistan.

He had also worked in the early 1990s with Human Concern International, an Ottawa-based charity that performed development work in the Muslim world. His boss at the time was Ahmed Said Khadr, an Egyptian-born Canadian who later proved to be a member of Osama bin Laden's inner circle.

Mr. Almalki worked for HCI in Pakistan and Afghanistan for almost two years, but quit in April 1994 because of what he described as a clash with Mr. Khadr.

Mr. Khadr would be arrested the following year and accused of diverting money from HCI to finance a November 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, an explosion that killed 15 people. He was released shortly after then-prime minister Jean Chretien intervened in the case.

Mr. Khadr, was killed in an October, 2003, shootout with Pakistani forces near the Afghanistan border.

After Sept. 11, 2001, CSIS and the RCMP also became suspicious of Mr. Almalki's ties to other Arab-Canadian men, including Mr. El-Maati, Maher Arar and a Montreal Muslim who held a pilot's licence and owned a Cessna.

Mr. Almalki was arrested by the Syrians when he went to visit his ailing grandmother in May 2002 based on what he believes was information that came from Canada. He was repeatedly interrogated and tortured into giving answers, he said, about his contacts with Canadian Muslims and his business dealings.

According to the Arar commission report, the Canadian ambassador in Syria arranged to have RCMP questions for Mr. Almalki passed to Syrian military intelligence. Mr. Almalki said he was then tortured again to give answers to those questions.

He was eventually released by the Syrians and cleared by their courts of any connection to terrorism.

Mr. Almalki said reputation and business have been destroyed by the Canadian government. He wants those in government who were complicit in his torture held responsible for what he called "an international crime."

"What moral boundaries do they have when they operate?" he asked his Carleton audience. "Clearly, when they don't have media scrutiny, or public scrutiny, there are international crimes. Torture is an international crime."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

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