Canada settles with wrongly accused terror suspects for $24.6 mln

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Canada settled a lawsuit for Can$31.5 million (US$24.6 million) with three citizens who were wrongly accused of terror links, local media said Thursday.

Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin had been arrested in Syria and Egypt after the 9/11 attacks.

Released in 2004 without charges, they returned to Canada, proclaimed their innocence and sued the government for Can$100 million over its role in their detention.

A 2008 independent inquiry led by retired Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci concluded that Canada’s spy agency and federal police force had been “indirectly” responsible for the three men’s mistreatment.

Canada’s public broadcaster CBC last year obtained exclusive documents showing that Canadian officials had fed Syrian officials questions they asked the men who were detained.

Almost a decade after the independent inquiry, the government formally apologized to the trio in March “for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to their detention and mistreatment abroad and any resulting harm.”

But officials did not divulge the amount of a settlement reached at the time.

On Thursday, Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said: “A settlement with these three gentlemen who were seeking Can$100 million in compensation was announced earlier this year.”

“However, I can’t confirm the amount paid to these individuals,” he told AFP.

The amount of the settlement was first reported by Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper.

It was listed in a government public accounts document released earlier this month under “settlement of a claim for general damages” launched by three unnamed individuals.

If split three ways, it is equivalent to the Can$10 million in compensation paid to Canadian computer engineer Maher Arar who was tortured in a Damascus prison in 2002, and to former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr.

Arar had been transferred to Syria by US officials based on a Canadian tip. He was later cleared by Canadian authorities.

Khadr had been captured in a battle in Afghanistan in 2002 and held at the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay before being turned over to Canada and released in 2015.

Khadr, a Canadian, was once the youngest prisoner held on terror charges at Guantanamo Bay. Reuters
Khadr, a Canadian, was once the youngest prisoner held on terror charges at Guantanamo Bay. Reuters

The Supreme Court ruled that the government had breached his rights by sharing statements he made to Canadian officials with Washington.

“We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees protection for Canadians and when governments... do not defend those rights, Canadians have to pay,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when asked about the payouts.

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