Canada Warns Its Citizens About Traveling in the United States After Seizing of Maher Arar

November 07, 2002


Monia Mazigh

wife of Maher Arar who is detained in Syria

Riad Saloojee

executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada

Michael Ratner

executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights

The travel advisory was directed toward Canadian citizens born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Yemen. The advisory came after the U.S. secretly detained a man who is both a Canadian and Syrian citizen in NewYork. On September 26, the man, Maher Arar was in JFK airport on a stopover flight from Tunisia to Montreal. Arar was detained and interrogated for nine hours without a lawyer. Officials claimed Arar had ties to a terrorist organization. Arar was then detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

No one heard from him until Oct. 3 when Arar made a desperate and emotional phone call to his mother-in-law telling her that he had been jailed and needed help. None of his relatives have heard from him since. Around October 10, US officials deported him. He was sent first to Jordan and then to Syria where he has not lived in 14 years. He is now being held in a Syrian prison. His family was never informed. Canadian officials were not informed but have met with Arar inSyria. His family have been denied contact.

While the Canadian government has backed away from its travel advisory, the family of Maher Arar are still fighting for his release and to learn what has happened.

Meanwhile the Justice Department announced Wednesday that thousands of men from five countries identified as high risk for terrorism and who arrived in theUnited States on or before Sept. 10 must be fingerprinted and photographed.

The rules are part of the National Security Entry/ExitRegistration System implemented by Attorney General Ashcroft and the Justice department. Men over 16 years of age from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan will be specifically targeted.