Friday, October 19, 2007

[wvns] US Lawmakers Apologize in Torture Case

US Lawmakers Apologize in Torture Case
Thursday October 18, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawmakers apologized Thursday to a Canadian engineer
for his detention by U.S. officials, who took him to Syria where the
man says he was tortured and held for nearly a year without charges.

Maher Arar, 37, appeared before a joint hearing of House subcommittees
by video, because he is still on a U.S. government watch list.

``Let me personally give you what our government has not: an
apology,'' said Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., as he opened the hearing.
``Let me apologize to you and the Canadian people for our government's
role in a mistake.''

Republican Dana Rohrabacher also apologized, but said he would fight
any efforts by Democrats to end the practice of extraordinary
rendition, whereby terror suspects are grabbed by government agents
and taken to another country where local authorities may torture
confessions out of them.

``Yes, we should be ashamed'' of what happened in the case,
Rohrabacher said. ``That is no excuse to end a program which has
protected the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of
American lives.''

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained by Homeland
Security 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 Arar for its role in the
case, and agreed to pay him almost $10 million in compensation. The
Bush administration has not apologized.

The administration has refused to say much about its extraordinary
rendition program, other than it is an extremely important tool in
combatting terrorists.

The hearing comes a day before Hollywood is to offer its own take on
the contentious anti-terror program: ``Rendition,'' starring Reese
Witherspoon, opens in U.S. theaters Friday.



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