Canadian Citizen Deported to Syria By U.S. Returns Home to Montreal After Spending A Year in Damascus Jail

October 08, 2003


Bassam Arar

brother of Maher Arar

Dalia Hashad

attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union

Syrian-born Canadian citizen Maher Arar spent a year in a Damascus jail without charges. He was deported to Syria, where he had not lived for 14 years, after being detained by U.S. officials in JFK airport on a stopover flight from Tunisia. We speak his brother Bassam Arar and the ACLU’s Dalia Hashad.

Maher Arar has returned home to Canada. A Syrian-born Canadian citizen, Arar was deported to Syria by U.S. officials. He spent 374 days in a Damascus prison without charges. This is his story:

On September 26, 2002 Arar was in JFK airport on a stopover flight from Tunisia to Montreal. He 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 a week later when Arar made a desperate and emotional phone call to his mother-in-law telling her that he had been jailed and needed help. The next week US officials deported him. He was sent first to Jordan and then to Syria where he had not lived in 14 years.

Maher Arar finally came home to Montreal on Monday. Upon his return he said "I’m very glad to get back home and I’m so excited to see my family again. My kids grew up about a year." Arar is 33 years old.