The Liberal government has paid a total of close to $31.3 million in settlements to three Canadian men wrongfully accused of links to terrorism and tortured in Syria— 15 years and two federal inquiries after their detentions, sources confirmed to CBC News.
Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin will split $31.25 million, but it’s not clear from officials how much each man received.
In March, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a statement saying the government had reached a settlement with the three men and apologized.
The amount of compensation going to three men was first reported by Le Devoir.
El Maati, a former truck driver from Toronto, was arrested in November 2001 after he flew to Syria to celebrate his wedding. He was later transferred to Egypt, spending a total of 26 months in prison.
Almalki, an electronics engineer in Ottawa, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months.
Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was detained by Syrian officials in December 2003 as he crossed the border from Iraq, where he was visiting family. He was held for 34 days in Syria in late 2003 and early 2004.
Philip Tunley, the lawyer for Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin, refused to comment on the story.
‘Their lives got destroyed’
All three said they were imprisoned, tortured, accused of links to al-Qaeda and told by their interrogators that information about them had come from the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The men have denied any links to al-Qaeda.
A 2008 federal inquiry found the actions of Canadian officials contributed indirectly to the torture of three men.
“They caused the torture to happen, they caused the detention to happen,” Almalki told CBC’s The Fifth Estate in June 2016. “They caused huge losses in my business. My brothers, their lives got destroyed. My kids, their lives got destroyed.”
The men had each filed a $100-million lawsuit against the government 10 years ago, but put their requests on hold ahead of the inquiry by Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci.
Their lawyers eventually won a lengthy court battle against the RCMP and CSIS to gain access to thousands of heavily redacted files, amounting to hundreds of thousands of pages.
CBC News obtained exclusive access to some 18,000 pages, which showed Canadian law enforcement officials not only knew three Canadians were being tortured in Syrian jails in a post-9/11 crackdown, but also co-operated with Syrian officials in their interrogations.
The files also show that a Canadian ambassador helped to deliver questions the RCMP and CSIS wanted put to the Canadians imprisoned in Syria, a country with a dismal human rights record.
“I was shocked that my country, which was supposed to work for my safety, let me end up in the torture chamber,” Nureddin told The Fifth Estate last year.
“My reputation has been damaged.”
On Thursday, Goodale said the objective is for the three men to get on with their lives now.
“The negotiation, with respect to settlements, is by its nature confidential as per the specific individuals,” he said.
Conservative justice critic Rob Nicholson said he didn’t know all the details of the case but, “anybody who was tortured, anybody who was imprisoned because of false, incorrect information deserves to be compensated,” he said.
Maher Arar, another Canadian arrested and tortured in Syria, received an apology and a $10.5-million settlement from the federal government in 2007.