Announcement: Benamar Benatta’s Story in Brief

Mr. Benatta is a Convention refugee from Algeria. After coming to the Canadian border to claim refugee status on September 5, 2001, he was detained by Canadian officials pending inquiries into his identity.

On the evening of September 12, 2001, Mr. Benatta was placed in the back of a car, driven over the border and handed to U.S. officials for investigation. This transfer took place without the benefit of a hearing on the merits of his refugee claim and without the benefit of counsel. Mr. Benatta was not told where he was going or why. He was terrified.

Mr. Benatta was held in a high-security wing of the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, New York, where he was accused of being a suspect in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Despite being cleared of any involvement in terrorist activities by the F.B.I. by November 2001, Mr. Benatta spent nearly five years in detention in the U.S. He was held in conditions that the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found could be described as torture and suffered abuse that is well-documented by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Canadian officials finally arranged for his return to Canada in July 2006. Mr. Benatta was granted refugee status in Canada in November 2007, and he is currently a permanent resident of Canada.

Mr. Benatta and members of the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review have long sought answers about the Government of Canada’s involvement in what happened to Mr. Benatta. The Benatta Coalition members called on the Government to conduct a public review into the circumstances of his case, on how he came to be handed over to U.S. officials following the events of September 11, 2001.

On April 19, 2007, then Minister for Public Safety, the Honourable Stockwell Day, announced in the House of Commons that Mr. Benatta would be given an “appeal” in his case. Such “appeal” never transpired and Mr. Benatta continues to seek justice, and to hold the government officials accountable for their illegal actions.

New things

The new news is that Ben’s still fighting. We’ve got new contact information for his other legal matters, so please check the “Contact” tab at the top menu.

Also we’ve added a “Books” section, so you can see a sampling of the books that have been written about terrorism, extraordinary rendition, the loss of our rights, all types of books dealing with civil rights that go over Ben’s case. He may not win this fight, being right doesn’t always mean you’ll win. But the hope is that everyone will not see him, recognize him and think, “Oh that’s that terrorist”—no, the hope is that people will look at him and say, “There’s that innocent man that got kidnapped, tortured, by the Government of the United States and of Canada.”

That is the hope. Along with an apology and substantial compensation for—as Federal Magistrate Court Judge Schroeder said—“depriving an innocent man of his liberty” in a “sham that bordered on ridiculousness”.

Also, speaking for myself as a friend of Ben’s, I want justice. I still want answers. I want accountability. I want the people who did this, from the person who made the decision to kidnap him in the middle of the night, to the persons who tortured him at MDC Brooklyn, to be held accountable for their actions. As all men should.

If you have knowledge of any book or article that mentions him please feel free to contact me, I’m the site admin or Ben. (All contact info is on the Contact page, thanks for reading!)

Ben is still fighting

The latest news article about Ben’s case against Ashcroft:

“Benatta is one of several men still fighting for the right to face former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI Director Robert Mueller in court. He says he suffered humiliation, beatings and abuse such as sleep deprivation while he was locked up.”

“’These policies were dictated by people at the highest levels of government,’ Benatta, 39, an Algerian who lives in Toronto, told the Daily News. ‘I haven’t been able to move on. . . . I want closure.’”

New video interview!

Thanks to Jozef K and Benamar.

Video: Time Magazine Interviews Benamar

We let fear and mistrust get the best of us… I hope I will be able to see the light; that I’ll be able to close the book on those dark days. —Benamar Benatta

Admin’s note: It’s hard to watch a friend recount the terrible things done to them. I fear, dear brother, that it is not you who needs to see the light. That those who need to see it the most are incapable of it. You have conducted yourself in stellar fashion even after they wronged you in the most fundamental of ways. They have made themselves look worse. Things have indeed changed since 9/11. Rights, once lost, are very hard to get back. It seems that they used to at least pretend. They seem not to be bothered with pretense anymore, because in their minds, they don’t have to. I wonder about those faces you talk about, the particular individuals that did these things to you. I wonder how they can sleep at night. Once again, I don’t have words for what I’m feeling. Actually I do have words, but you’ve set an example here. So I’ll just say… I’m sad and mad. I’m amazed by your optimism and resilience. You’re fighting, and we are behind you.

I hope visitors to this site will watch the video, and share it with someone else.

Ben’s case against the U.S.

Heads up: This Monday there’s an article coming out in Newsday about Ben’s civil case against the U.S. government. The government is arguing that the suit “violates” a settlement they reached with other plaintiffs.

“No, you can’t sue me for a slip and fall in my store. That would be a violation because another person fell in my store and we’ve already settled.”

(I thought I could make it sound more ridiculous.)

They also think that they did nothing wrong and owe Mr. Benatta nothing for their crimes against him. Why? Because, according to them, they had an “unprecedented” task, having to face the events of 9/11. Meaning, I suppose, “we’re not experienced” or maybe “this has never happened before”.

That’s actually misleading. First, it’s not true, we have faced threats and attacks in this country before so they DO know how they’re supposed to behave.

Second, rules of law that they violated were custom-made for times like these! For times of violence and confusion!

It’s like purposely violating every item on a tsunami safety tips sheet because there’s a tsunami coming. Or using the fact that there’s a tsunami coming to disregard and violate every safety measure on the list.

What was it, particularly, about their task that made it so difficult to avoid keeping a man imprisoned for years after the FBI exonerated him? What was it, about their task that made it necessary to torture him?

I can’t say it any better than U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. did, when he demanded Ben’s release because he had been “undeniably deprived of his liberty”: it’s a “sham” that “borders on ridiculousness”.

Talk about precedence.

“It is going to be a long battle, but as I told my U.S. lawyer, I want John Ashcroft to answer for his actions. And I won’t give up until those responsible are held accountable…” —Benamar

What they did and are doing… a more ignoble thing I can not find.

Let us all hope that the judge rules with wisdom.

Bitter anniversary for rendition victim

Benamar Benatta was imprisoned for five years in the United States but never charged.
July 20, 2009
Benamar Benatta
I was the subject of an “extraordinary rendition” from Canada to the United States, where I was held for nearly five years and tortured as a terror suspect, even though I was innocent.
An extraordinary rendition is a transfer from one jurisdiction to another without lawful authority. When Canadian officials put me in the back of a car against my will and drove me over the border during the night of Sept. 12, 2001, and handed me to the Americans without legal authority, their actions fit with the definition of extraordinary rendition.
Today marks a bitter anniversary: three years in my struggle to get answers as to how and why the Government of Canada could have done this to me, in violation of domestic and international law.
On Sept. 5, 2001, I came to Canada seeking political asylum. I was fleeing my home country of Algeria, where I was scared that I would be killed if I stayed.
After spending seven days and nights in Canadian custody awaiting my refugee hearing, on the evening of Sept. 12, without telling me where I was going, giving me access to a lawyer or following laws of any kind, Canadian officials drove me over the border and handed me to the Americans.
You see, Canada thought I had something to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because I was a Muslim man, I was in the Algerian military and had studied aeronautics as a university student.
But they were wrong about me. I was innocent. I was even cleared by the FBI. I spent nearly five years in prison in the United States, where I was tortured and abused (according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which produced a report about me).
Finally, I was released from prison and allowed to return to Canada to finish the refugee claim that I had started so many years before. That bitter anniversary of my “return” to Canada was three years ago today: July 20, 2006.
You would think that July 20 would be a happy anniversary for me, seeing as it was the day that I was released from prison. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but this anniversary is agony. On the day I was released, I had nothing – no money, no belongings and no family or friends to turn to.
When I arrived in Canada by prison escort, after being interviewed for hours by Canadian officials, I was allowed to leave with a U.S. lawyer who had come to help me. We headed to the local Wal-Mart, me still in my prison uniform, to find some new clothes. I will never forget the frightened little girl who ran from me, or the cashier who eyed me like I was a criminal. It is these little indignities that stick with me.
So again, it is July 20. Three years have passed since that day and I still do not have any credible answers about why Canada handed me to the Americans. In fact, hurtfully, the Canadian government denies doing anything wrong in my case. But the government caused my nightmare.
Imagine being accused of the worst terrorist attack you can imagine, even though you are innocent. Imagine the injustice of facing torture (beatings, humiliation, sleep deprivation) and being imprisoned from the age of 27 to 32.
I have no redress for the ruination of my career, for post-traumatic stress and depression, for reliving the nightmares of my detention every time I close my eyes. In fact, I still do not even have an “I’m sorry” from the government. “I’m sorry” for throwing all the laws of the land out the window. “I’m sorry” we ruined your life.
Why hasn’t the government done the right thing in my case? Why aren’t Canadian citizens putting pressure on the government to do the right thing?
Maybe the government is more concerned about protecting its image than repairing the damage. Maybe, after the horrifying case of Maher Arar, Canadians can’t accept that their government could be directly responsible for an extraordinary rendition (something reserved for more sinister nations, like the U.S. and Syria).
But it is true. It happened. And if Canada wants to continue forward as a nation that upholds the rule of law, and if Canadians want a government that promotes human rights, there must be acknowledgement of what happened.
There must be redress. And least of all, even three long years since my return to Canada, there must be an “I’m sorry.”

Rights groups demand full account on why man handed to U.S. officials

Human rights groups called on the Canadian government yesterday, (December 11, 2008) to provide a full account as to why Mr. Benatta was transferred to the United States one day after the September 11 attacks.

In a letter to Public Safety Minister, Peter Van Loan, supporters of Benatta said they were “dismayed” to learn Ottawa claims it did nothing wrong.

Such a defense “undermines public confidence in the government’s commitment to safeguarding human rights in the context of national security,” wrote representatives of groups such as Amnesty International Canada, Canadian Council for Refugees and International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.

To read the letter that was submitted by the human rights groups click here.

To read the Toronto Star article regarding the letter, click here.

Videos from the Recent Ottawa Event

I just discovered the following videos, from “An Evening with Benamar Benatta”, the January 29th event which was held at the Public Service Alliance of Canada Hall in Ottawa recently.

Much appreciation to whomever uploaded them. Thanks!

Benamar shares details of his nightmare-experience.

Benamar’s lawyer, Nicole Chrolavicius.

Matthew Behrens speaks in support of Benamar. He is coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada and Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture.

Toronto man haunted by torture in U.S. jail

Latest article:

Ben is is scheduled to speak tonight at the Noor Cultural Centre. Discussion starts at 7:30 pm. Admission: $5.

Go if you can.

Some highlights from the above article:

Benamar Benatta rarely sleeps more than three or four hours a night.

The 33-year-old former Algerian air force lieutenant still spends nights wondering why Canadian officials transported him across the border on Sept. 12, 2001 then handed him to American authorities. And, of course, there are recurring nightmares of five years spent in U.S. jails, despite being cleared by the FBI in November 2001 of having any links to the 9/11 attacks.

The Toronto man can still hear the taunts from jail guards who called him a terrorist; can still hear the jingle of keys as guards entered his cell every half-hour, waking him from a fitful slumber.

“I’m not the same person I used to be before Sept. 12, who was full of life and full of spirit,” said Benatta, whose feet and hands bear scars from his time in jail. “It’s like they’ve marked me for the rest of my life. It wasn’t only five years of detention – what they did to me will hurt me the rest of my life,” said Benatta…