Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lawyer Says Rendition 'Part of a Larger Pattern'

Published on Wednesday, December 28, 2005 by the Independent / UK
by Colin Brown
 

The lawyer of a man who claims he was taken to Syria by the CIA and tortured said yesterday there were examples of similar cases.

His remarks sparked renewed demands for a full inquiry into "extraordinary rendition" in the UK.

Lorne Waldman, the human rights lawyer representing Maher Arar, said it was "ridiculous" for the US Ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, to deny any renditions by the US of terrorist suspects to Syria had taken place.

Mr Tuttle denied there was evidence of a rendition to Syria but the US Embassy in London later issued a clarification admitting there were reports of one case involving Mr Arar.

"The case of Mr Arar is too public for someone to claim they are not aware of it,'' Mr Waldman said on BBC radio. "To suggest, as the US ambassador did, that they were not aware of the case is ridiculous.''

The lawyer said other suspects had also been shipped for torture by the CIA to Syria. "This is part of a larger pattern. We know of other cases of other individuals who have been rendered,'' said Mr Waldman.

"He [Maher Arar] landed in Jordan - and was driven overland by the Jordanians to Syria - in the same CIA plane that was used to render other people to Egypt and other countries where they were tortured. So this was part of a well-known, well-documented pattern."

There was further embarrassment for the US when a former British ambassador to Damascus, Henry Hogger, appeared to confirm that Syria was being used by the CIA.

"What was going on in Syria at the time was not unlike the way it has been described," Mr Hogger said. The US and Syria had worked together, particularly on counter-terrorism, despite public antagonism, he added.

A spokesman for the Commons all-party group on rendition said: 'The momentum for a full inquiry is now becoming unstoppable. There are now inquiries in European countries, including Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and a public inquiry in Canada. Why should Britain be the odd one out?"

Mr Arar's lawyer said he had been "brutally physically tortured" and had been held in a cell about the size of two coffins without light for months. Mr Waldman's claims appear to be backed by the case of a German citizen, Syrian-born Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who claims to have spent four years in a Syrian dungeon after he was abducted in Morocco and transported to Damascus, as part of the US "extraordinary rendition" programme.

© 2005 Independent News and Media Limited

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