Torture victim Maher Arar says he was shocked when he learned earlier this month Pentagon war crimes prosecutors had linked him to a terrorist safe house in Afghanistan through an interrogation of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay.
“It was shocking,” Arar said Thursday night before a panel discussion about media coverage of his case was held at the University of Toronto’s Victoria college.
“For a week at least, I have been in deep depression mode and it’s not easy, believe me it’s not easy,” Arar said.
An FBI interrogator told a military court in Guantanamo Bay last week he showed Khadr a photo of Arar during an October 2002 interrogation at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Khadr said he recognized Arar because the Ottawa engineer had stayed at terrorist “safe houses” in Afghanistan.
The agent’s claim was severely undermined, however, when court heard the following day Arar was in North America during the time in question.
Arar on Thursday vehemently denied he had ever been in Afghanistan, saying the only time he has ever seen Khadr before was on TV.
“I’ve said it 100 times and I will say it 101 times, no,” a clearly frustrated Arar told reporters.
But he then went on to say he wasn’t surprised with such allegations because they’ve been part of a systemic pattern of leaks meant to malign his name, which has happened before and will happen again.
He then went on to blame journalists who blindly report allegations that are completely unfounded and have repeatedly been discredited through a variety of enquiries and investigations.