Updated: US Peace Activist, Retired Col. Ann Wright, Detained at Ottawa Airport
OTTAWA - A former diplomat and retired US army colonel said she was detained at Ottawa airport Thursday while en route to anti-war talks and a news conference with Canadian MPs blasting wrongful detentions.Retired US Army Colonel Ann Wright, was scheduled to speak to media at 1 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) alongside five opposition MPs, outside parliament.
Later, she was to join the wife of Maher Arar, a Canadian who was wrongfully detained as a terror suspect and tortured, and the head of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group for a panel discussion on civil liberties breaches tied to post-9/11 security.
"I've been detained and I've been banned from Canada for one year," Wright told AFP. "Now, they're sending me back to the United States on a 5 p.m. flight" because of a half-dozen US misdemeanor charges stemming from anti-war protests in Washington.
"It's ironic that I find myself in this situation," she commented, noting she was in town to spotlight the use of "watch lists and how people find themselves on these lists and are detained."
Wright, who was denied entry into Canada earlier this month, faces a US jury trial in December for disrupting top US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus's briefing to Congress in September, during which she demanded an end to the "Iraq occupation."
She was also fined for her part in anti-war protests outside the White House and on the steps of the US Congress in Washington.
"Apparently, she's a threat to national security and is on US watch lists," lamented an official with New Democrat MP Alexa McDonough, who invited Wright. "It's silly because there's no reason for her to be detained."
McDonough herself regretted that her guest underwent "three hours of interrogation" by customs officials, saying: "What happened today underscores how worrisome it is that we have these arbitrary kinds of decisions being made on the basis of FBI watch lists."
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told reporters everyone entering Canada undergoes a security check, and risks being barred from the country if they have a criminal record.
"The border officer doesn't make a distinction between what were the extenuating circumstances that arose to a certain conviction," he explained.
Wright said she should not be blacklisted for misdemeanor crimes resulting from civil disobedience, but has not been able to convince the FBI to remove her name from its list.
"I find it unbelievable that because I have misdemeanors in the US, Canada has banned me, even after I've been invited here by five members of Parliament," she said.
"Hopefully, I won't get sent to Syria (like Maher Arar)," she quipped.
Maher Arar, a Syrian-born software engineer, was detained by US authorities in New York in 2002 while in transit from Tunisia to his home in Canada, and then deported to Syria where he was jailed and tortured for almost one year.
A Canadian judicial report in September 2006 cleared Arar of terror ties and blasted federal police for wrongly labeling him an "Islamic extremist." The botched case eventually cost Canada's top policeman his job.
© 2007 Agence France Presse