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Canadian deported to Syria presses US appeal

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, Nov 10 (Reuters) A Canadian who said US authorities deported him to Syria where he was tortured should have been able to contest the order in a US court, his lawyer told an appeals court.

Maher Arar, a software engineer born in Syria, was arrested during a stopover in New York in 2002 and deported because of suspected links to al Qaeda to Syria, where he has said he was imprisoned for a year and tortured.

Arar sued US authorities in 2004 but a judge threw out the suit. He is appealing the decision. Last month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States had mishandled the case, but she stopped short of an apology.

''What would the protection against gross physical harm mean if US officials can detain and deport an individual and then send him to a foreign country to do the exact same thing?'' his lawyer, David Cole, told the Second Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday.

''Just as they are liable if they sent him to a gang of skinheads (in United States), the same would be true if they sent him to a gang of skinheads'' in another country, said Cole, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bucholtz told the three-judge panel the US Constitution ''was never designed to apply the world over.'' US District Judge David Trager in Brooklyn, New York, threw out Arar's lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and others in 2006, citing national security and foreign policy considerations.

Arar had argued that that his constitutional right to due process had been violated when he was confined without access to an attorney or the court system and then forcibly returned to Syria, where US authorities had reason to believe he would be tortured.

Canada apologized and paid Arar 10.9 million dollars in compensation and legal fees after its inquiry found that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had wrongly told United States border agents that Arar was suspected of being an extremist.

The case has become a sore spot in relations between Ottawa and Washington, and Canada has asked the United States to remove Arar from its security watch list.

Reuters SBA VP0540

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