RCMP lay charges against ex-Syrian colonel for torture of Ottawa engineer Maher Arar, lawyer says

OTTAWA — A lawyer for says the is laying torture charges against a former Syrian military intelligence officer for alleged involvement in the torture of the Ottawa telecommunications engineer.

Lawyer Paul Champ says while the colonel’s whereabouts are unknown, the charges represent the culmination of a decade-long RCMP investigation.

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was detained in New York in September 2002 and soon after deported by U.S. authorities — winding up in a grave-like cell in Damascus.

Under torture, Arar gave false confessions to Syrian military intelligence officers about supposed involvement with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.

A federal commission of inquiry led by Justice Dennis O’Connor concluded that faulty information the RCMP passed to the United States very likely led to Arar’s year-long ordeal.

Champ, Arar’s wife Monia Mazigh, and representatives of Amnesty International appeared at a news conference today to announce the development.

An RCMP document charges Col. George Salloum with torture.

It is unclear whether he can be located and since Syria is beset by warring factions, casting doubt on the prospect of a trial any time soon.

RelatedCIA agents tried to stop arrest and torture of Canadian Maher Arar, former spy says

It marks the second time in recent months the RCMP have laid charges against someone in a far-flung country for a crime committed many years ago.

In June, almost seven years after the overseas hostage-taking of former journalist Amanda Lindhout, the RCMP arrested and charged a Somalian man.

Lindhout and photographer Nigel Brennan were seized by young gunmen near strife-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, in August 2008. Both were released on Nov. 25, 2009.

Ali Omar Ader, a Somalian national, faces a charge of hostage-taking for his purported role as a negotiator.

About Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press