German citizen sues ex-CIA director over torture
7 December 2005, WASHINGTON - The issue of extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects is before a U.S. court after a German citizen filed suit against former CIA Director George Tenet Tuesday, saying he was forcibly abducted, taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan and tortured.
7 December 2005
WASHINGTON - The issue of extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects is before a U.S. court after a German citizen filed suit against former CIA Director George Tenet Tuesday, saying he was forcibly abducted, taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan and tortured.
Lebanese-born German citizen Khaled al-Masri filed the lawsuit, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a U.S. district court. Al-Masri alleges he was seized in Macedonia, handed over to U.S. officials who transferred him to Afghanistan and mistreated him during a five-month imprisonment. He was then released at night on an Albanian road.
The lawsuit alleges that al-Masri was innocent, that he was never charged with a crime, and that Tenet had been informed of this fact two months before the German was let go.
*sidebar1*El-Masri attempted to enter the United States Saturday to participate in a news conference announcing the lawsuit, but was denied entry and could only take part via a video link.
The case will likely stoke the debate over U.S. techniques in the war on terror. There have been several reports of extraordinary rendition and torture. In addition, The Washington Post reported last month that the CIA operates secret prisons around the world, including in Eastern Europe. That report has caused an uproar in Europe, and the European Union has asked the United States to respond to the allegations.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Europe this week and has maintained, as have President George W. Bush and other top officials, that the United States does not torture and that it respects the sovereignty of other countries.
"I do believe they are lying," Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "There is a widespread problem with torture and abuse."
Speaking to reporters with new German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Rice reiterated that claim but seemed surprised when Merkel brought up the al-Masri case.
"We are talking about one case where the U.S. has admitted it made a mistake," said Merkel. However, according to Fox News, State Department officials have disputed this assertion, saying Rice had made no such statement. The Secretary of State stressed that there would be no public declaration of American guilt from her side and that she would not discuss "the specifics of the al-Masri case".
President George W. Bush, speaking to reporters at the White House, said Tuesday that the United States does not render prisoners to countries that torture, adding that he would not discuss secret government programmes.
The ACLU is not buying the government rhetoric.
"Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating him outside the law is contrary to American values," said Romero. "Our government has acted as if it is above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation."
The lawsuit also charges three companies that allegedly operate the planes used for the 'extraordinary rendition' programme, and 20 unnamed individuals who were involved in al-Masri's abduction and detention.
"The CIA's policy of extraordinary rendition is a clear violation of universal human rights protections," said Steven Watt, the ACLU's primary human rights advisor on the case. "Snatching Mr. al-Masri off the street and hiding him away in a secret prison was illegal under American and international law. Keeping him imprisoned after his innocence was established was immoral by any standard."
Al-Masri alleges he was denied access to lawyers and German authorities, and that he was beaten, drugged, sodomised and humiliated in the five months he was held against his will.
Subject: German news