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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 6, 2003

[ ... ]

QUESTION: Has the Secretary cover any interesting facts about the deportation of a Canadian to Syria? As you know, the Canadians are very upset about it. The guy says he was beaten. Has he jumped in, and what's the net result?

MR. ERELI: What I can tell you on this case is that the Secretary spoke yesterday with Canadian Foreign Minister William Graham. They discussed the Arar case, and the Secretary agreed to share additional details with the Government of Canada as soon as they become available. So we are looking into the matter, and when we -- as soon as we can -- we have something to share with the Government of Canada on it to respond to their concerns, we'll do it.

QUESTION: Do you know at this stage whether the fellow was a suspect in terrorism, in a terrorism situation? There must have had good cause to get him out of here.

MR. ERELI: The decision to detain and deport him was a law enforcement decision; therefore, I would not be the one to speak to that.

Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: There were -- oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: If we're on the same topic, Secretary Powell, in a meeting with Mr. Graham last year, said that specifically that the RCMP provided information to the FBI linking Mr. Arar to al-Qaida. Is that, in fact, the case? Are you still operating on that basis? Are you still making that claim?

And will Secretary Powell reveal those names of any RCMP allegedly involved? And, if so, when?

MR. ERELI: As I said, Secretary Powell undertook with Foreign Minister Graham to look into the details of this case. That is what we are doing, and we will report back to the Canadian Government when we have -- when we have something we can tell them.

QUESTION: Is there anyone that's willing to express any regret that this man, who appears to be innocent, was deported by the United States and suffered torture for almost a year?

MR. ERELI: I guess the point to make here is that, let's establish what the facts were and then proceed on that basis. And right now what we're trying to do is to look into the facts, get a clear picture of what happened and why, and then see if we can't, can't respond in a satisfactory way to the concerns that are out there.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Chretien says --

QUESTION: Are you talking about what happened in Syria?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Chretien says that Canada should have been consulted before Mr. Arar was deported. Was Canada consulted? And, if not, why not?

MR. ERELI: That is what we are looking into.

QUESTION: Well, on the larger --

QUESTION: Are you looking into whether Syria mistreated this fellow?

MR. ERELI: That -- that is not one of the areas under our competence in the sense that what the Syrians did to him and under what circumstances is not something for the U.S. -- that the U.S. Government is in a position to investigate and determine.

QUESTION: Well, on the larger issue of dual -- Canadian dual-nationals, because this person, apparently, was a dual-national --

MR. ERELI: Syrian-Canadian.

QUESTION: Right. Has there been any -- at the time, Canada had said that any dual-national should go to Canada first for interrogation before going to his -- to another -- the other country of origin, and was kind of trying to get some kind of agreement with the United States to promise that Canada would be the first place for these suspects to go.

Have there been any arrangements with Canada -- I know you're looking into this specific case, but in the future -- that any dual-national suspects, one of the nationalities being Canadian, that they would go to Canada first?

MR. ERELI: Let me take that question.

Yes, Teri.

QUESTION: The United States often says that it looks into what would happen to people if they send them back. I mean, some of the immigration policies are based on that very fact. How can you say that it doesn't apply in this case? That you don't -- that what Syria may have done when you sent him there isn't relevant?

MR. ERELI: No, no, no, I -- what I'm saying is that -- is that -- the question was: Is the United States investigating in Syria the circumstances of the individual's -- the treatment of a Canadian citizen by the Syrian Government. And my point was simply that we're not really in a position to do that.

QUESTION: Why not? You were the ones that released them to the Syrians, so obviously, do you not bear responsibility for what happens once they're there?

MR. ERELI: It's not -- I would say that those -- that before you jump to those conclusions, it's important to establish the facts, and that's what we're doing.

QUESTION: I don't know if, based on the information that you have right now, if you can say whether or not the State Department was involved in making the decision as to where this individual should go, or was that purely at Justice?

MR. ERELI: I don't believe so. This was -- as I said before, this was a -- this was a -- these decisions and actions were taken by law enforcement agencies on -- based on law enforcement considerations.

[ ... ]

[ End ]