Steinmeier denies knowing of 2003 abduction of German

15th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

15 December 2006, Berlin (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter insisted to a parliamentary inquiry this week that Berlin had no knowledge in 2003 or early 2004 that one of its citizens had been abducted by US agents. The committee was examining the allegations of German citizen Khaled el-Masri that he was spirited off to Afghanistan, tortured and then released when the Americans realised they had the wrong man. Officials who served under former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder say they were only told of

15 December 2006

Berlin (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter insisted to a parliamentary inquiry this week that Berlin had no knowledge in 2003 or early 2004 that one of its citizens had been abducted by US agents.

The committee was examining the allegations of German citizen Khaled el-Masri that he was spirited off to Afghanistan, tortured and then released when the Americans realised they had the wrong man.

Officials who served under former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder say they were only told of the matter after el-Masri's release.

"Let me say unambiguously: the federal government, the BND intelligence service, the Federal Police Bureau and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution gave no assistance in the abduction of this German citizen," Steinmeier told the inquiry.

He rejected as "insulting" suggestions in the media that as Schroeder's senior aide he might have turned a blind eye to the abduction. But he defended the exchange of intelligence information with the United States in the fight against terrorism.

German authorities have always remained within the law in their fight against terrorism, Steinmeier said Thursday outside the hearing.

"We sometimes had very difficult decisions to make. But these were always within the framework of the state of laws, and will continue to be so," he told media.

His predecessor as foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who now teaches at an American university, denied before the parliamentary inquiry that he had known el-Masri was detained. Thursday was the final day of hearings on el-Masri.

Fischer, making one of his few public appearances since resigning his parliamentary seat earlier this year, termed the abduction "a very serious matter." Steinmeier also deplored the kidnapping. El- Masri is currently suing US authorities for damages.

A Muslim who is of Lebanese origin and lives in southern Germany, el-Masri says he was imprisoned by US agents in December 2003 in Macedonia and tortured in Afghanistan, then released. He said the Americans accused him of being a terrorist.

The inquiry had already heard that the then US ambassador to Berlin, Daniel Coats, informed then German interior minister Otto Schily on May 31, 2004 that el-Masri had been mistakenly detained, then freed.

Fischer said he had not learned of this meeting from Schily but from reading about it in the online version of the Washington Post newspaper. The two ministers were not close.

At present Fischer is teaching at Princeton University in the United States. German officials have uniformly denied any knowledge of the abduction till after el-Masri had been released.

DPA

Subject: German news

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