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US reopening review of torture charges
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    WASHINGTON — The Bush administration said Thursday that it is re-examining the conclusions of an investigation that found the government acted appropriately in the case of a Canadian engineer seized by U.S. officials and sent to Syria and allegedly tortured.
    The chief of internal investigations at the Department of Homeland Security, Richard Skinner, said at a congressional hearing that his office could not rule out that the United States wanted to send Maher Arar to Syria because it believed he would be tortured there. He said that the Justice Department had been informed of that possibility and is currently investigating.
    Skinner said that his office has new information that contradicts an earlier conclusion of its own investigation on the Arar case.
    Skinner released two versions of the report on its investigations, one of them classified, to lawmakers ahead of a hearing on the Arar investigation. He testified at the hearing held by two subcommittees of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees.
    Lawmakers at the hearing criticized the administration for taking so long to release details on Arar’s case and for keeping much of the report classified.
    Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., chairman of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, called on the two committees to ask Justice to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether the administration broke U.S. laws on torture.
    The Homeland Security investigation, which was requested by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic Rep. John Conyers, found that U.S. immigration officials acted appropriately when it deported Arar to Syria.
    Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained by U.S. immigration agents on Sept. 26, 2002, as he stopped over in New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport en route home from a vacation. Days later, he was sent by private jet to Syria where, according to Canadian officials, he was tortured.
    After nearly a year in a Syrian prison, he was released without charges and returned to Canada.
    The Canadian government has apologized to him and agreed to pay him almost $10 million (euro6.5 million) in compensation. Some U.S. lawmakers, including many at Thursday’s hearing, also apologized to Arar last year.
    The administration has not apologized and has refused to say much about its extraordinary rendition program other than it is an extremely important tool in combating terrorists.
    A lengthy Canadian investigation into the Arar case found the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wrongly labeled him an Islamic fundamentalist and passed misleading and inaccurate information to U.S. authorities, which very likely led to Arar’s arrest and deportation.
    The inquiry also determined Arar was indeed tortured, and it cleared him of any terror links or suspicions.
    Legal experts say the case shows the United States has violated a 1998 law that specifically prohibits the government from turning a suspect over to a foreign country where the suspect might be tortured. U.S. authorities say they do not turn over suspects to other countries without diplomatic assurances that they will not be tortured.


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