(AFP) – Feb 1, 2010
WASHINGTON — A Canadian man who was transferred by US officials to Syria, where he was imprisoned and allegedly tortured, filed a suit before the US Supreme Court seeking to sue the United States.
Maher Arar is appealing a lower court ruling that his case could not proceed because it involved secret national security information.
Arar, an engineer of Syrian origin, was arrested by US officials while he was transiting through New York in 2002.
He was detained in the basis of information shared with US authorities by Canadian police that suggested he had ties to terrorists.
US officials deported him to Syria, where he was imprisoned for a year, during which time he alleges he was tortured, before finally being released and returned to Canada.
Canadian authorities later cleared him of any connections to terrorism, apologized officially and agreed to pay him a substantial amount of money in damages for having supplied the incorrect information that led to his arrest.
He has sought the same from the US government, but has been rejected by lower courts.
The suit filed before the Supreme Court questions "whether federal officials who conspired with Syrian officials to subject an individual in US custody in the United States to torture in Syria may be sued for damages."
It alleges that US "officials also intentionally obstructed the victim's access to the judicial remedy provided by Congress to prevent torture, and damages are the only remedy available to vindicate the victim's rights."
In a statement, Arar said he hoped the court would "hear my plight and eventually overturn lower courts' rulings which essentially gave the government the green light to continue the abuse of its executive powers in matters related to national security."
"The courts below ruled that federal officials cannot be sued for sending an innocent man to Syria to be tortured because the case would be too sensitive," said David Cole, a lawyer for Arar.
"We hope the Supreme Court will reaffirm the role of checks and balances and afford Mr Arar his day in court."
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