Abductee el-Masri offered job as informer: report

19th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 December 2005, MUNICH - Fresh elements were added Saturday to the mysterious tale of a Lebanese-born German, Khaled el-Masri, who says he was kidnapped by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and held for five months until the Americans realized he was innocent.

19 December 2005

MUNICH - Fresh elements were added Saturday to the mysterious tale of a Lebanese-born German, Khaled el-Masri, who says he was kidnapped by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and held for five months until the Americans realized he was innocent.

While Washington has not confirmed any part of the story, Berlin has implicitly confirmed his detention in a series of statements.

Chancellor Angela Merkel began the week saying Washington had admitted its mistake. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier denied to parliament mid-week that federal security agencies "provided any assistance in the abduction of German citizen el-Masri."

Berlin has not, however, squarely said that el-Masri was abducted. Most details circulating about the alleged abduction have come via news reports quoting "sources" or from el-Masri himself.

During his alleged detention, el-Masri was offered a job as an informer, but refused it, according to his lawyer, as quoted Saturday by the German weekly magazine Focus. El-Masri says he was kidnapped at the end of 2003 and held part of the time in an Afghan prison.

Focus, in a story to hit the streets on Monday, quoted the lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, saying that his client had not been "directly" offered a post as a spy, but was asked if he could imagine "talks about his contacts" in Germany after his return.

The 42-year-old lives in the Bavarian city of Neu-Ulm which is allegedly home to many radical Muslims.

The Bavarian counter-terrorism agency, LfV, denied Saturday a report in the same magazine that one of its agents had passed information about el-Masri to a CIA agent at a meeting outside their offices in April 2004.

"There was no such meeting," LfV deputy president Franz Gruber told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Munich. "Focus is wrong. The state office for the protection of the constitution (LfV) has not passed any information about Khaled el-Masri to the CIA."

Focus gave no source for its story, but asserted the meeting took place at a time which was almost four months after the date el- Masri says he was abducted while visiting Macedonia and a month before he was allegedly set free in Albania.

According to Focus, the German security official had not been aware at the time that el-Masri had been abducted.

This week, the German government said no federal security agency had passed any information about el-Masri to the CIA before or during the period when he says he was in captivity, but made clear it could not speak for other agencies at the level of Germany's 16 states.

In a related development, el-Masri has denied he received cash compensation from the United States. The German federal commissioner for human rights, Tom Koenigs, said el-Masri was entitled to a solemn apology from the United States, if it had abducted him.

Debate continued meanwhile in Germany on whether it was right for German security officials to interview persons held without trial in foreign custody as terrorism suspects.

Manfred Nowak, an Austrian who is a U.N. special reporter on torture, said in an interview that Germany should not send police to states such as Syria which were known to employ torture systematically.

"Otherwise the suspicion might arise that torture is being knowingly supported, even though the German officials do not participate in torture," he said in an interview with dpa.

Germany confirmed this week that it had sent federal police to interview Mohammed Haidar Sammar, a Syrian-born German suspected of being an al-Qaeda operative and the recruiter of some of the pilots for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Gul Pinar, a German lawyer representing Sammar, was reported as saying Saturday that the Berlin government had lied to his family.

"His family was looking for Mohammed Sammar for years and begging official agencies to help them and were being put off. Yet at the same time, German officials were meeting him," she told the newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung.

German news reports said the interview took place in 2002. Germany has an inquiry under way against him for terrorism offences.

The German Foreign Office said Saturday that consular officials had regularly sought meetings with Sammar to offer him consular assistance, but Syria had refused, pointing out he was also a Syrian citizen. The ministry had regularly informed the Sammar family.

DPA

Subject: German news

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