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An Extraordinary Challenge To Extraordinary Evil

excerpts from a report by Tim Harper. August 10, 2005

Canadian Maher Arar made history in a Brooklyn courtroom yesterday when his lawyers forced the Bush administration to defend its treatment of him when he was detained in the United States, then whisked off to face torture in Syria. Lawyers for the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights became the first to challenge Washington's policy of "extraordinary rendition" in a court of law.

"Extraordinary rendition" is a policy by which suspected terrorists are sent to other countries for interrogation, and often face torture. It was on trial in U.S. district court during three hours of oral arguments in the case known as Arar vs. Ashcroft.

Arar's lawyers say yesterday's hearing -- and a potential future trial -- are a test of the extraordinary powers Bush has assumed.

"This is all about an executive branch of the U.S. government which does not believe its actions are limited by the constitution," said Barbara Olshansky, one of Arar's lawyers. "We believe this is all about what can and cannot be done to a human being. Was someone deprived of their liberty and due process? In this case, that clearly happened."

Arar was on his way home to Canada in September 2002, when U.S. authorities detained him at New York's JFK airport, holding him without access to a lawyer and ultimately sending him to Syria, where he says he was imprisoned for more than a year and tortured.

Arar said he heard some positive signs. "At least an American judge is hearing my case. I just hope he looks at all aspects of my case and doesn't treat it like a deportation, as the government tried to portray it."

Arar said he wants the U.S. government to explain publicly why he was sent to Syria. "I want the American people to be aware of what is being done under this banner of the war on terror," he said.

You have been reading excerpts from "Arar drags Bush's policies into court" by Tim Harper. You can read the entire piece here: tinyurl.com/cc9uj. Thanks to The Toronto Star for their website: thestar.com.

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