CSIS trip to Egypt likely led to abuse of Toronto man: report
OTTAWA — Canadian intelligence agents went to Egypt to get information about a Toronto man and likely contributed to his abuse by authorities there, newly released documents say.
The previously unknown visit by CSIS officers became public Tuesday as a federal commission disclosed once-secret pages of an inquiry report on the overseas torture of Ahmad El Maati and two other Arab-Canadians.
The Harper government and commission lawyers squabbled for more than a year about the sensitive portions of the report, which the government balked at making public due to national security concerns.
In his report released in October 2008, former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci found that Canadian officials were likely partly to blame for the torture of El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin by sharing information — including unfounded accounts of extremism — with foreign agencies.
The men, all of whom deny involvement in terrorism, were abused in Syrian prison cells. El Maati, 45, was tortured by Egyptian captors as well.
At a news conference Tuesday, the former truck driver told of being blindfolded, handcuffed and zapped in the hands, back and genitals with electric shocks. The torture left El Maati barely able to walk a city block. He has undergone several operations.
“My whole life is completely destroyed,” he said. “I need an apology. They ruined my life, I can’t work anymore now.”
El Maati, a dual Canadian-Egyptian citizen, was arrested in November 2001 upon arriving in Syria, where family and friends planned to celebrate his marriage.
Instead, he spent over two months at the notorious Far Falestin prison in Damascus.
False confessions El Maati made under torture were used to obtain search warrants in Canada. He was transferred to Egypt in January 2002, languishing another two years in “degrading and inhumane conditions,” Iacobucci found.
In Tuesday’s report, the former judge says CSIS sent a message to Egyptian authorities in June 2002 asking whether El Maati was in their custody without taking into account how that would affect “the manner in which he might be treated.”
“This message stated, among other things, that Mr. El Maati might possibly have been involved in a plan to commit a terrorist act in Canada.”
Witnesses from both CSIS and the RCMP told the inquiry it was not the responsibility of intelligence or law-enforcement officials to be concerned about the human rights of a Canadian detainee.
They said that was the sole consideration of Foreign Affairs.