Andrew Duffy, Ottawa (Ottawa Citizen) – Ottawa engineer Abdullah Almalki says new documents show the RCMP’s assessment of his terrorist threat was both wholly unfounded and clouded by racism.
Almalki, a Carleton University graduate and father of six, spent 22 months in Syrian custody after his arrest on May 3, 2002.
He was questioned based on faulty Canadian intelligence and tortured.
Almalki on Tuesday released explosive new documents obtained under federal Access to Information legislation, which reveal that RCMP investigators had found nothing against him both before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In an RCMP memo, dated Oct. 4, 2001, an investigator concludes: “O Div. (Ontario Division) task force are presently finding it difficult to establish anything on him other than the fact he is an arab running around.”
Despite that internal finding, the RCMP, in a letter to the Syrian intelligence agency, labelled Almalki “an imminent threat” to Canada’s national security and linked him to al-Qaeda.
That letter was issued on the same day, Oct. 4, 2001, that RCMP investigators admitted they had nothing on him.
In an interview Tuesday, Almalki said he was stunned to read the characterization of him as “an arab running around.”
He called it a blatantly racist remark that explains how the RCMP viewed the world after 9/11.
“It shows the racism involved in this,” Almalki charged. “To me, it is the piece of the puzzle I’ve always been looking for: it never made sense to me why they did what they did.”
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, called the RCMP memo “derogatory and racist. It suggests ethnic profiling,” he said. “That part of why he was being watched or was of interest was that he simply was Arab.”
What’s more, Neve said, the memo reveals that at the same moment that the RCMP was telling Syria’s notorious intelligence agency that Almalki was a dangerous al-Qaeda member, investigators knew they held no evidence.
A spokesman for the RCMP would not comment Tuesday.
Almalki also released three other RCMP documents, all of which announce that the Ottawa businessman committed no crime.
In one “continuation report,” dated Sept. 20, 2009, an RCMP official notes that the force will not become involved in an on-going Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) probe into Almalki. It concludes: “Almalki does not seem to have committed any criminal offence … yet.”
Another RCMP report produced two months before 9/11 says: “He (Almalki) has not been found to be committing any criminal activities in Canada.”
One week before 9/11, after the RCMP conducted a complete review of its Almalki file, an unnamed investigator concluded: “It does not appear to me that there is any offence being committed at this time that would warrant an investigation by ANSIS (one branch of the RCMP’s National Security Investigative Service).”
The same report goes on to suggest that Almalki’s Ottawa company had not committed any violation of Canada’s export regulations.
Almalki had first come under investigation by CSIS in 1998 when some of his company’s communications equipment was found in the hands of the Taliban.
He met with CSIS and explained that his export company shipped store-bought equipment to a Pakistani firm, Microelectronics, and that he didn’t control what happened to it after that point.
Almalki came under renewed focus in the heated aftermath of 9/11 because he could be loosely tied to Ahmed Said Khadr, once the highest-ranking Canadian member of al-Qaeda. Almalki had worked for Khadr at Human Concern International, an Ottawa-based charity that performed development work in the Muslim world.
In October, 2008, a federal inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, concluded that Almalki’s Syrian ordeal was due in part to mistakes made by Canadian officials.
Iacobucci said Almalki had been wrongly labelled in RCMP reports sent to foreign countries. In particular, the suggestion that Almalki posed an imminent threat was “inflammatory, inaccurate and lacking investigative foundation,” the judge said.
A Commons committee subsequently recommended that the federal government apologize to Almalki and compensate him.
The government, however, continues to deny any legal responsibility for Almalki’s mistreatment and that of two other Canadian citizens, Ahmed El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, similarly detained and tortured overseas.
Almalki and his family are now suing the federal government for $100 million.
El-Maati and Nureddin are seeking $60 million each.
“To this day, there’s not a shred of regret for what they did,” Almalki said.
Alex Neve said the latest revelations make the federal government’s decision to deny Almalki compensation — and force him to fight a protracted lawsuit — even more outrageous.