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

Local volunteers honoured at annual gala

Four awards were handed out during the Volunteer Gala on April 21

Council accepts the 2017 financial statement

Sylvan Lake Town Council met for its regular meeting on April 23

Two game winning streak for Yettis

The Yettis are in a winning season, with the current stats of 3-1

Localized flooding in Red Deer County

The rapidly melting snow is causing overland flooding in some areas

Impromptu fundraiser brings in more than $1,000

Al Libby began a fundraiser by accident, while at work earlier this month

Toronto van attack suspect faces 10 counts of first-degree murder

The suspect in the Toronto van attack that killed 10 people and injured 15 others on Monday is a 25-year-old man named Alek Minassian

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

Turning vehicles into deadly weapons is easy and cheap, expert says

Not all recent vehicle attacks have been linked to terror groups, says Candyce Kelshall

Toronto van attack accused was briefly in Canadian Armed Forces

Alek Minassian was a member of the forces from Aug. 23, 2017 until Oct. 25

Cause of plane crash that killed former Alberta premier Jim Prentice to be released

The findings of investigation into the plane crash that killed four set to be released.

High water around Pigeon Lake area Apr. 22

PHOTO STORY Lots of snow melt means lots of water running…

One suspect sought by Leduc RCMP after bank robbery

Leduc RCMP seek public assistance for robbery

‘Enough is enough’: G7 ministers agree to call Russia out

‘Enough is enough’: G7 ministers agree to call Russia out on ‘malign’ behaviour

Cosby jury to decide: Serial rapist or con artist’s mark

Bill Cosby is at the courthouse Tuesday morning ahead of closing arguments in his sexual assault retrial.

Most Read