Bush helps German's CIA rendition claim: lawyers
By Tony Czuczka, dpa30 November 2006By Tony Czuczka, dpa
30 November 2006
Washington (dpa) - US President George W Bush's admission that the US set up secret interrogation sites abroad has bolstered the lawsuit of a German who claims the CIA abducted and mistreated him, lawyers said Wednesday.
Lebanese-born Khaled El-Masri took his case to the US capital for the first time, a day after lawyers asked a US appeals court to overrule a lower judge and allow the suit to go to court.
El-Masri, 43, alleges he was seized in Macedonia on December 31, 2003, secretly detained for five months in Kabul, Afghanistan, then dumped by his captors in Albania. He says he is an innocent victim of the CIA's so-called extraordinary renditions of terrorism suspects.
The suit cites former CIA director George Tenet, charging he knew that El-Masri was held even after the agency realized his capture was a mistake. El-Masri says his main goal is an apology from the US government, which argues that airing his charges in court would endanger state secrets.
"I don't know why this happened to me," El-Masri told a news conference Wednesday. "I don't know why I was arrested. I don't know why they released me."
Bush acknowledged the existence of the CIA programme in September, saying it provided crucial intelligence on terrorist plots after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Bush denies that the US tortures detainees.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a human rights group that sued on El-Masri's behalf, said it believes Bush's admission will help its appeal before a US federal court in Richmond, Virginia.
"That's an extremely important fact," ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said. His colleague Steven Watt said the ACLU is hopeful that the appeals court will do a "much more thorough inquiry" than a US judge who threw out the case in May.
El-Masri was meeting key US lawmakers Wednesday. The pony-tailed former truck driver has become a cause celebre in efforts to expose alleged abuses under the CIA programme.
His case triggered investigations in Germany and has figured in a European Parliament inquiry into what role European governments may have played in helping the CIA.
A European Parliament investigator's report concluded Wednesday that at least 10 European Union countries were implicated in the CIA effort. In particular, Italy, Britain, Germany and Sweden allegedly helped turn over suspects or knew about their capture.
El-Masri said his captors beat and force-fed him. They gave him names of people and asked whether he knew them, but also confronted him with personal details such as bank transactions and the fact that he had lent a car to a friend in Germany, El-Masri said Wednesday.
"They never accused me of anything the whole time," he said. "I was just asked about other people - money men, terrorists."
In Germany, a parliamentary inquiry is seeking to determine how much German officials knew about El-Masri's case and when they knew it.
Former German interior minister Otto Schily told the inquiry last week that then-US ambassador Dan Coats admitted to him in 2004 that El-Masri's detention had been a mistake.
El-Masri reportedly worshipped at a mosque in the southwestern town of Neu-Ulm that was under the influence of a radical Islamist, Reda Seyam. German media have speculated that this attracted the CIA's attention.
Germany stepped up surveillance of radical Muslims when it emerged after the September 11 attacks that three of the four suicide pilots had lived and studied in the northern port city of Hamburg.
Subject: German news