Federal Govt. pays $31.3M settlement to 3 men unjustly imprisoned in Syria

13OCT/A3/CLR/THREE/ 57P X FULLFRAME /F Abdullah Almalki (foreground) Ahmad Abou Elmaati (middle) and Muayyed Nureddin leave a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 12,2006. The three Canadian citizens were held on security certificates at different times, and are calling on the Conservative government to investigate their treatment by Canadian authorities. re Ottawa called on to probe security agencies' actions: cases of three men handed over to Syria figured prominently in Arar inquiry (CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)

The federal government has paid a total of $31.3 million in settlements to three men wrongfully accused of links to terrorism and tortured in a Syrian prison.The settlement comes eight years after the House of Commons public safety recommended in June 2009 that the government formally apologize and offer compensation to Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin.

The lump sum was split between Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.

The three men filed $100 million lawsuits over the federal government’s role in their imprisonment, claiming that their reputations were destroyed and they were left psychologically and physically shattered after the ordeal.

All three men were all detained in Syria at different times.

The first, El Maati, a former truck driver, was arrested in November 2001 after flying to Syria to celebrate his wedding.The RCMP suspected that El Maati was planning an attack on nuclear facilities in Canada based on a map found in his truck. He never made it to his wedding.

The second man, Nureddin, the principal of an Islamic school in Toronto, was crossing the border from Iraq, where he had been visiting family, in December 2003 when he was detained. He was the subject of a bulletin sent from Canada to the CIA.Nureddin’s detention lasted 34 days.

In the third case Ottawa-based electronics engineer Almalki was held for 22 months in Syria starting in 2002 after the RCMP and CSIS sent out an international alert starting that he’d been on their watch list.During his torture, Almalki falsely confessed to being an associate of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. He later retracted the confession and said it was made under the extreme conditions.Almalki’s torture included hundreds of lashings all over his body that lasted for hours. The severe beatings left him covered in blood and unable to walk.

In March, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale formally apologized to the men on behalf of the government “for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to their detention and mistreatment abroad and any resulting harm.”

The inquiry in the cases found Foreign Affairs, CSIS and the RCMP were found to have made mistakes in connection with the cases.