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Leahy, Specter pressing administration on Arar rendition

[JURIST] US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website], chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Thursday that he intends to ask [recorded video] the Government Accountability Office [official website] to look into why Canadian citizen Maher Arar [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] remains on the US terror watch list. Leahy and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], former committee chairman and current ranking Republican, met with US Justice Department officials this week hoping to determine why Arar was taken by the US to Syria, where he claims to have been tortured, instead of to his home country of Canada, but Leahy and Specter said Thursday that the meeting failed to convince them that Arar's deportation was justified. The Bush administration has continuously defended [JURIST report] its decision to deport Arar, and refuses to remove Arar from its terror watch list.

Arar, a 34 year old Syrian-born Canadian who moved to Canada with his parents when he was 17, was detained in 2002 by US authorities while on a stopover at JFK airport when returning to Canada from Tunisia. He was subsequently transferred to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured. Last week the Canadian government officially apologized for its role in the US deportation, and announced a settlement [JURIST report] with Arar of $10.5 million (CAD) compensation for pain and suffering plus legal fees. The final report [text, PDF] of the Arar Commission [official website], the Canadian judicial inquiry into the incident, found that the US decision to deport Arar was "very likely" based on inaccurate, unfair and overstated information [JURIST report] about him passed on by the RCMP [official website], Canada's federal police force. The Commissioner of the RCMP later resigned over the incident. The Toronto Star has more. Canada's Globe and Mail has additional coverage.

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