The federal government of Ottawa has paid settlements totalling $31.3 million to three men falsely accused of being linked to terrorist groups, then imprisoned and subsequently tortured in Syria.
The lump sum was split among Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.
Officials won’t confirm how much of the total $31.3 million each man received.
None of the three men have ever been charged with any terror-related offence. They have all denied ever participating in any terrorist activity.
In March, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a statement saying the government had reached a settlement with the three men and apologised.
El Maati, a former truck driver from Toronto, was arrested in November 2001 after he flew to Syria to celebrate his wedding. He was later transferred to Egypt, spending a total of 26 months in prison.
Almalki, an electronics engineer in Ottawa, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months.
Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was detained by Syrian officials in December 2003 as he crossed the border from Iraq, where he was visiting family. He was held for 34 days in Syria in late 2003 and early 2004.
All three said they were imprisoned, tortured, accused of links to Al-Qaeda and told by their interrogators that information about them had come from the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
In an interview with the Star, Almalki said he’s ready to try to move on from a terrible episode in his life that has stretched on for 15 years.
The 46-year-old said: “We were falsely targeted based on racism and bigotry.”
Speaking in Burlington, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the payout “a difficult lesson” for what happens when Canadian governments “of any stripe” allow a citizen’s rights to be violated.
He said: “I certainly hope that people remain concerned, angry and even outraged at these settlements, because no future government should ever imagine that it’s a good idea or an acceptable idea to allow Canadians’ fundamental rights to be violated.”
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