Feds pay $31.3M settlement to 3 men unjustly imprisoned in Syria
Published Wednesday, October 25, 2017 10:13PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 26, 2017 9:03AM EDT
The federal government has paid a total of $31.3 million in settlements to three men wrongfully accused of links to terrorism and tortured in a Syrian prison, CTV News has learned.
The lump sum was split among Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin. Officials won't confirm how much of the total $31.3 million each man received.
The three men filed $100 million lawsuits over the federal government’s role in their imprisonment, claiming that their reputations were destroyed and they were left psychologically and physically shattered after the ordeal.
None of the men were ever charged with any terror offences.
All three men were detained in Syria at different times. The first, El Maati, a former truck driver, was arrested in November 2001 after flying to Syria to celebrate his wedding.
The RCMP suspected that El Maati was planning an attack on nuclear facilities in Canada based on a map found in his truck. He never made it to his wedding.
Ottawa-based electronics engineer Almalki was held for 22 months in Syria starting in 2002 after the RCMP and CSIS sent out an international alert starting that he’d been on their watch list.
During his torture, Almalki falsely confessed to being an associate of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. He later retracted the confession and said it was made under the extreme conditions.
Almalki’s torture included hours of lashings. The severe beatings left him covered in blood and unable to walk.
Nureddin, the principal of an Islamic school in Toronto, was crossing the border from Iraq, where he had been visiting family, in December 2003 when he was detained. He was the subject of a bulletin sent from Canada to the CIA.
Nureddin’s detention lasted 34 days.
In March, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale formally apologized to the men on behalf of the government “for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to their detention and mistreatment abroad and any resulting harm.”
The government also announced it had reached settlements of undisclosed amounts with the three men, but it did not make those numbers public.
The total cost of those settlements was quietly published this month in the government’s public accounts.
A 2008 inquiry led by a former Supreme Court justice determined that federal officials contributed to the men’s torture by sharing important information with international agencies.
Foreign Affairs, CSIS and the RCMP were found to have made mistakes in connection with the cases, the inquiry found.
The settlement comes eight years after the House of Commons public safety committee recommended in June 2009 that the government formally apologize and offer compensation to Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin.
MPs on the committee also pushed for the government to do “everything necessary” to clear the men’s names and delete the false allegations from national security agencies’ records.
An even split of the settlement would work out to just over $10 million each. That’s nearly same amount as the $10.5 million the government paid to compensate Maher Arar, who was taken to Syria and imprisoned in torture, in part because of false information provided by the RCMP.
Maher was paid another $1 million to cover legal fees. He received his settlement in 2007.
A 2006 inquiry into Arar’s torture prompted Justice Dennis O’Connor to recommend a review of Almalki, Elmaati and Nureddin's cases.
With a report from CTV’s Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor and The Canadian Press