Steinmeier, Schily under pressure over al-Masri affair

8th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

8 December 2005, BERLIN - Pressure grew Thursday on German officials who withheld information for more than half a year on the CIA abduction of a German national and his detention in a brutal Afghan jail.

8 December 2005

BERLIN - Pressure grew Thursday on German officials who withheld information for more than half a year on the CIA abduction of a German national and his detention in a brutal Afghan jail.

Opposition parties have suggested a parliamentary inquiry if Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former interior minister Otto Schily do not satisfactorily explain.

Steinmeier was former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's chief of staff when Lebanese-born Khaled al-Masri returned to Germany last year after more than five months in the hands of U.S. agents. First news reports of the case did not emerge till early this year.

A commission of inquiry can be set up on the vote of one quarter of the Bundestag parliament, or 154 votes. Three opposition parties could theoretically combine to force an inquiry. As of Thursday they had not announced an intention to do so, but were threatening it.

Wolfgang Gerhardt, leader of the Free Democrat caucus, said he hoped the government provided immediate answers in the parliament's standing committees.

Oskar Lafontaine, co-leader of the Left Party caucus, charged that Schily had breached his oath of office by covering up the abduction.

Schily has said he was informed on May 31, 2004 of the abduction but the Americans made him promise to say nothing.

Al-Masri says he was abducted on December 31, 2003 in Macedonia, allegedly because he had the same name as another person sought by the United States. Unconfirmed U.S. news reports say the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seized him.

A lawyer for al-Masri says that he alerted German authorities in June 2004.

The daily newspaper Die Welt said the case was only mentioned to the parliamentary committee on intelligence, whose members are sworn to secrecy, in February 2005 after U.S. news reports of the case.

*sidebar1*Die Welt said Munich public prosecutors investigating who abducted al-Masri had received no information from the government in Berlin. Prosecutor August Stern was quoted saying there had been no response other than the processing of standard requests for foreign legal assistance.

The prosecutor said earlier that none of the other nations which were asked to help had provided any information. The requests were sent to the United States, Macedonia and Albania.

The Munich file is against "persons unknown" on charges of unlawful imprisonment, assault and extortion.

DPA

Subject: German news

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