German prosecutor calls for answers in CIA case

11th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

11 July 2006, BRUSSELS - A German prosecutor has said he would push ahead with investigations aimed at clarifying what and when German authorities knew about the alleged detention of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who claims he was kidnapped by the CIA.

11 July 2006

BRUSSELS - A German prosecutor has said he would push ahead with investigations aimed at clarifying what and when German authorities knew about the alleged detention of German citizen Khaled El-Masri who claims he was kidnapped by the CIA.

"The question of Germany's responsibility in the case needs to be asked again," Munich prosecutor Martin Hofmann told a European parliament committee scrutinizing allegations of secret CIA activities in Europe.

Lebanese-born German national El-Masri says he was seized on December 31, 2003 on the Serbian-Macedonian border on suspicion of terrorist activities, held for five months in an Afghan jail, and only released after the CIA realized they had the wrong man.

The Munich-led probe has been slowed down because of the confidentiality of several statements, Hofmann told Euro MPs.

"There are a lot of points in my inquiry which I cannot yet discuss...and some information has been classified by the (German) authorities," Hofmann said.

However, investigators will continue to hear key witnesses, he added. These would include an agent of Germany's BND foreign intelligence service who has said that he heard about the detention of El-Masri some days after.

The German government had earlier said its officials were only tipped off regarding the alleged abduction after El-Masri's release.

Hofmann told Euro MPs that he also wants to quiz a former Macedonia-based German Telecom manager who claims that he informed the German embassy in Skopje about the case in January 2004.

The ambassador, however, has denied the statement.

Munich investigators also aim to reveal the identity of "Sam", a man El-Masri says is a German agent who has visited him in his Afghan prison.

Hofmann told the European parliament's committee probe that El- Masri's abduction claims were credible.

DNA tests had proven a "significant change in living conditions" and witnesses heard so far had supported the statements made by El- Masri, the prosecutor said.

However, medical examinations had not shown any traces of physical violence, he said. El-Masri claims that he was beaten and force-fed in the Afghan jail.

The Munich probe also wants to interview an Algerian named Laid Saidi who says he met El-Masri when being held in the Kabul prison for 16 months before being released in August 2004.

Germany's intelligence service BND last month said that one of its agents first heard that a German national had been detained in Skopje during the first half of January 2003.

The German government had earlier insisted its officials were only tipped off regarding the alleged abduction after El-Masri's release in May 2004.

A German parliamentary investigation is seeking to determine how much German officials knew about the el-Masri case and when they knew it. A key question is whether German intelligence played any role in El-Masri's detention.

A US judge earlier this month dismissed El-Masri's lawsuit that claims he was kidnapped and tortured by the CIA as a terrorism suspect, ruling that state secrets would be at risk if the case went to court.

The European parliament's probe last week overwhelmingly backed a controversial European Parliament report accusing European governments of having colluded with alleged illegal CIA operations on the continent.

The 46-member parliamentary committee investigating the CIA charges was set up in January. Its final report is expected by the beginning of next year.

The committee is working in tandem with an inquiry by Europe's top human-rights watchdog, the Council of Europe. However, the committee has no power to sanction European governments.

Clandestine detention centres, secret flights via or from Europe to countries where suspects could face torture, or extraordinary renditions would all breach the continent's human-rights conventions.

DPA

Subject: German news

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