Germany made secret deal with Syria: report

21st November 2005, Comments 0 comments

21 November 2005, HAMBURG - German interrogators were granted access three years ago to a terrorist in one of Damascus' most dreaded jails under a secret deal with Syria, the news magazine Der Spiegel said Sunday.

21 November 2005

HAMBURG - German interrogators were granted access three years ago to a terrorist in one of Damascus' most dreaded jails under a secret deal with Syria, the news magazine Der Spiegel said Sunday.

They were able to speak in 2002 with Mohammed Haidar Zammar, a Syrian who is believed to have a German passport, after he had been captured by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents in Morocco and removed to Syria, Spiegel said in its issue to appear Monday.

In exchange, intelligence officials in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's office acceded to Syrian demands to quash the indictment of two suspected Syrian spies. Berlin later accused Syria of reneging and continuing espionage in Germany in breach of the deal.

German government officials declined comment on the Spiegel report. A spokesman said only that all intelligence activities were communicated to the parliamentary committees that monitor them.

The magazine said senior Syrian officials secretly visited Berlin in July 2002 to arrange the deal.

Zammar was believed to have been al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden's representative in the German port city of Hamburg and a close friend of the three Hamburg Arab students who piloted hijacked jets in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Captured at the end of 2001, Zammar has been held in the brutal Far Filastin Jail, a facility in the basement of the Syrian military intelligence headquarters in Damascus, the magazine said. Amnesty International says torture takes place routinely there.

At the November 2002 meeting, German federal police and domestic and foreign intelligence officers travelled to Damascus and were told by Zammar that his main contribution had been to convince one of the pilots, Marwan al-Shehhi, to join the "jihad" cause.

He had also arranged for Murat Kurnaz, a man from the German port city of Bremen who has been in the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camp since 2002, to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taleban.

Spiegel said the interview findings had been kept top secret and had not been shared with prosecutors investigating Islamists in Germany.

Prosecutors had withdrawn the indictments of the two alleged Syrian agents on instructions from the German federal justice ministry, but a second German visit to Damascus never took place because the Syrians had broken the bargain.

It was meanwhile reported that a German city was among the possible venues to be used by U.N. chief investigator Detlev Mehlis to interview six senior Syrian officers as part of the probe into former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri's assassination.

Arab newspapers said Cologne was being considered as a neutral location. Mehlis comes from Germany.

DPA

Subject: German news

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