Ex-Gitmo captive set to sue Canada for $50 million for alleged complicity in torture

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale had no comment given the pending legal proceedings

Algerian national Djamel Ameziane in seen in this portrait taken at his home outside Algiers on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Ameziane is suing the federal government for $50 million, alleging information provided by Canadian intelligence officials to their American counterparts led to his lengthy detention and abuse at Guantanamo Bay. (Debi Cornwall/The Canadian Press)

An Algerian man is set to sue the federal government for the abuses he says he suffered at the hands of American security forces after he left Canada 15 years ago.

The unproven allegations by Djamel Ameziane, who was never charged or prosecuted, raise further questions about Canada’s complicity in the abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay — a topic his lawyer said demands a full-scale public inquiry.

“My current situation is really bad, I am struggling to survive,” Ameziane, 50, said from near Algiers. “I was repatriated from Guantanamo and left like almost homeless. I couldn’t find a job because of the Guantanamo stigma and my age, so a settlement would be very helpful to me to get my life back together.”

In a draft statement of claim obtained by The Canadian Press, Ameziane seeks damages of $50 million on the grounds that Canada’s security services co-operated with their U.S. counterparts even though they knew the Americans were abusing him.

“The Crown’s conduct constituted acquiescence and tacit consent to the torture inflicted upon the plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.

Canadian intelligence, the suit alleges, began sharing information with the Americans after failing to pick up on the 1999 “Millennium plot” in which Ahmed Ressam, another Algerian who had been living in Montreal, aimed to blow up the Los Angeles airport. After 9/11, Canadian agents interrogated Ameziane at the infamous American prison in Cuba, as they did Canada’s Omar Khadr, according to the claim.

Ameziane’s Edmonton-based lawyer, Nate Whitling, said the government’s recent out-of-court settlement — worth a reported $10.5 million — with Khadr over violation of his rights has prevented scrutiny of Canada’s alleged complicity in abuses at Guantanamo Bay. A judicial inquiry is needed, Whitling said.

“Only then can the Canadian public come to understand the extent to which Canada is responsible for the torture of innocent detainees in the aftermath of 9/11,” Whitling said.

The lawyer, who said he planned to file the lawsuit in Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton on Monday, said Ameziane would be prepared to put the claim on hold in exchange for an inquiry. Whitling also said two other people planned similar suits that name the federal government, RCMP and Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale had no comment given the pending legal proceedings.

The U.S. detained Ameziane at Guantanamo Bay for more than 11 years until his release in December 2013.

“For many years, I had the idea of suing the Canadian government but didn’t know how and honestly didn’t know it was possible until I read the news about the settlement of Omar Khadr, who was my fellow inmate in Guantanamo Bay,” Ameziane said. “The action I am taking may also make (Canadian officials) think twice before acting against the interests of Canada and Canada’s human values.”

According to his claim, Ameziane left Algeria in the 1990s to escape rising violence there. After working as a chef in Austria, he came to Canada in December 1995 and asked for refugee status. He lived in Montreal for five years, attending mosques where the Americans said members of al-Qaida prayed.

When Canada rejected his request for asylum, Ameziane opted to go to Afghanistan rather than Algeria, where he feared abuse. He left Afghanistan for Pakistan in October 2001 when fighting erupted, but was captured and turned over to American forces in exchange for a bounty, his claim states.

The Americans first took him to a detention facility in Kandahar, where he alleges guards brutalized him, then sent him to Guantanamo Bay based partly on information provided by Canadian intelligence, according to his claim.

Ameziane, who denies any terrorism links, says Canadian agents interviewed him in Guantanamo in February and May 2003 and turned over recordings of the interrogations to the Americans. They did so, he claims, despite widespread allegations that U.S. forces were abusing detainees and even though they knew he faced no charges and had no access to a lawyer or the courts.

Ameziane alleged American officials interrogated him hundreds of times and abused him when they decided he wasn’t co-operating. The abuse, he alleges, included sleep-deprivation, intrusive genital searches, pepper-spraying, waterboarding, being left in freezing conditions, and having his head slammed against walls and the floor, dislocating his jaw.

“Canadian officials came to interview me on two occasions (and) they not only shared information about me with my American torturers but even tried to get information out of me that had nothing to do with Canada in order to help my American torturers,” Ameziane said. “I refused to answer questions, after that I was subjected to a worse treatment by the Americans.”

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had the incorrect first name of Ahmed Ressam

Just Posted

UPDATE: Motorist dies near Ponoka after loose tire collides with vehicle

Ponoka RCMP seek assistance in locating vehicle belonging to the tire

Almost 100 kgs of suspected cocaine seized at Coutts border crossing

84 bricks of suspected cocaine seized from California residents’ vehicle; largest recorded seizure.

Millet’s longest consecutive serving councillor awarded

Former councilor Eleanor Pydde honoured after 19 years

Wetaskiwin Salvation Army Food Bank seeks community support

CP Holiday Train to visit Wetaskiwin Dec. 6

Calling all Christmas letter lovers

The Pipestone Flyer is publishing letters to Santa in its Christmas Greetings special section

FCC votes along party lines to end ‘net neutrality’

Move rolls back restrictions that keep big providers from blocking services they don’t like

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

5-year anniversary of Sandy Hook shooting

When just saying ‘I’m from Newtown’ can be a cross to bear

New fighter-jet competition to have national ‘economic interest’ requirement

Trudeau government wants to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with 88 new fighters by as early as 2025

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

VIDEO: ‘Last Jedi’ premiere kicks off with droids, Daisy Ridley

Latests Star Wars film premiered in style ahead of Dec. 15 theatre debut

Canadians urged to exercise caution in Middle East ahead of protests

Protests are in reaction to Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Feds planning to push back delivery date for new fighter jets: sources

The Liberals had planned to buy 18 Super Hornets

Most Read