Former prisoner says Canada aiding Syria crackdown


A Canadian who was jailed and tortured in his native Syria for nearly two years has accused Canada of “indirectly financing” the regime in Damascus through its oil and gas industry.

Engineer Abdullah Almalki, 40, was arrested in Syria in 2002 on the basis of information provided by Canadian authorities who suspected him of terrorism. He returned to Canada in 2004 and was cleared of all accusations.

In an interview with CBC at a demonstration in Ottawa against Syria’s months-long crackdown on pro-democracy protests, Almalki said Canada was contributing to repression through its oil interests.

“The oil and gas revenues do not go to the benefit of the Syrian people — it goes to the Assad regime,” he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled the country for four decades.

“Nowadays they’re being used to supply the killing machine, to supply the rounds, the bullets and the salaries of the thugs of the government who are killing day in, day out.”

The Canadian oil firm Suncor has invested some $1.2 billion in Syria in a partnership with Syria’s state-run General Petroleum Corporation to exploit oil and gas fields in central Syria.

Canada, along with the United States and European countries, has imposed a series of economic and political sanctions on Syrian officials and banned the supply of any arms that could be used against protesters.

The West has yet to impose sanctions on Syria’s oil and gas industry, seen as a key source of income for the government.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday called on all countries to cease buying oil and gas from Syria in order to protest the violence against demonstrators, but did not mention any countries specifically.