Macedonia 'claims innocence' in German rendition case

28th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

28 April 2006, BRUSSELS - Macedonian top government officials have denied any involvement in the alleged CIA abduction of a German, European lawmakers on an investigation mission in Skopje said Friday.

28 April 2006

BRUSSELS - Macedonian top government officials have denied any involvement in the alleged CIA abduction of a German, European lawmakers on an investigation mission in Skopje said Friday.

"The Macedonian officials we've quizzed so far guaranteed us that all allegations are wrong," German Socialist Euro MP Wolfgang Kreiss-Doerffler told Deutsche Presse-Agentur by telephone.

Lebanese-born German national Khaled al-Masri claims that he was detained in Macedonia on December 31, 2003, and held and interrogated by armed Macedonian guards for 23 days in a hotel in Skopje.

From there, al-Masri says, he was flown by the CIA to Afghanistan and jailed for months as a terrorist suspect before being transported and released without explanation in Albania.

"Officials told us that due to visa procedures they knew that al-Masri was in the country for 23 days, but assured us that they do not know what happened to him during that time and considered him to be an ordinary tourist," Kreissl-Doerffler said.

Euro MPs investigating alleged CIA activities in Europe held talks with President Branko Crvenkovski, Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska, Interior Minister Ljubomir Mihailovski as well as with officials of the Macedonian security service.

Macedonian authorities said that they answered all questions asked by a Munich lawyer, currently investigating the case, Euro MP Kreissl-Doerffler said.

The German government has said it knew nothing of Masri's plight until after his release. A German Parliament inquiry scrutinizing alleged activities of the German intelligence during the Iraq war, will now also look into what Berlin knew about the al-Masri case.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who headed the office of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, will be quizzed by European lawmakers later this year, Kreissl-Doerffler said.

In May, Euro MPs will leave for Washington to collect information from former CIA officials. Al-Masri is suing the US for wrongful imprisonment and torture.

Al-Masri's case is among the best known examples of rendition, the US-practice of secretly taking terrorism suspects for interrogation to third countries which are likely to use torture.

"The CIA has, on several occasions, clearly been responsible for kidnapping and illegally detaining alleged terrorists on the territory of (EU) member states, as well as for extraordinary renditions," said an interim report of the European parliament's inquiry published earlier this week.

Data from Eurocontrol, the European air safety agency, had proven that the CIA operated more than 1,000 flights in Europe since 2001, the report said.

The 46-member parliamentary committee investigating the CIA charges was set up in January. It is working in tandem with an inquiry by the Council of Europe. However, the committee has no power to sanction European governments.

The Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights watchdog, said earlier this month that European governments have violated human rights treaties by helping the US to transport terror suspects to other countries for interrogation.

DPA

Subject: German news

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