Canada diplomat knew of Syria abuses

June 18, 2005 at 11:35 AM
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OTTAWA, June 18 (UPI) -- Canada's former ambassador to Syria has said he was surprised to learn one of his successors did not know of Syrian human rights abuses.

Martin Collacott, ambassador to Syria for three years in the early 1990s, said at an inquiry into the possible mistreatment and torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar while he was imprisoned in Syria that he knew prison abuse was common in the Middle Eastern country, reported Saturday.

Collacott said he was surprised that Franco Pillarella claimed to have no knowledge of human rights abuses in the country's prisons. He said there has "been no secret" that Syria's detention system is harsh towards prisoners.

Pillarella testified earlier in the week that he saw no evidence of human-rights violations during his three-year term as ambassador to Syria.

Arar, a Canadian citizen from Ottawa, was deported by U.S. authorities in September 2002 after he was arrested in New York on his way home to Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. The engineer claims he was repeatedly tortured during his year in prison.

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