Steinmeier rejects charges in prisoner case

24th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

Brussels (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier rejected charges that he had known about a US offer to release a German-born Turk from the US military prison at Guantanamo. "I do not know about such an offer," Steinmeier told reporters in his first-ever comments on the allegations. Steinmeier has come under fire over claims that, while he was a top aide to former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, he failed to take an opportunity to obtain the release of Murat Kurnaz. Arriving at a meeti

Brussels (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier rejected charges that he had known about a US offer to release a German-born Turk from the US military prison at Guantanamo.

"I do not know about such an offer," Steinmeier told reporters in his first-ever comments on the allegations.

Steinmeier has come under fire over claims that, while he was a top aide to former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, he failed to take an opportunity to obtain the release of Murat Kurnaz.

Arriving at a meeting with the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels, Steinmeier said that the previous German government had repeatedly tried to free Kurnaz.

Kurnaz spent four-and-a-half years in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after his arrest as a teenaged, suspected al-Qaeda supporter in Pakistan, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Secret government documents seen by the German media claim the United States offered to release Kurnaz in 2002 after concluding that he was not a terrorist, but that Germany refused to take him back.

Kurnaz was not freed until August 2006 on the intervention of the present government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A September 2002 German document obtained Tuesday by dpa praised cooperation between the US and German intelligence services on the Kurnaz case said the Americans had offered to free him within six to eight weeks.

The notes, compiled by the German intelligence station in Washington, said the Americans were sure Kurnaz was innocent and offered to make it look as if the Germans has exerted pressure and won Kurnaz's release.

Cooperation with a German liaison officer who met Kurnaz had been "exemplary" and Kurnaz had been cooperate too, the notes said.

Steinmeier was head of the federal chancellery and coordinator of the country's intelligence services under Schroeder.

"On various occasions, we made efforts for a release (of Kurnaz)," Steinmeier said. Charges that the former government had obstructed Kurnaz release were "firstly wrong and simply mean," he added Tuesday.

The minister said that the alleged US offer to release Kurnaz would be discussed by a parliamentary committee appointed to investigate whether the country's foreign intelligence service BND breached German laws while assisting US anti-terrorism operations after September 11.

In another twist to the case Tuesday, it was disclosed in Berlin that a microphone was found in the office of a leftist member of that committee. Intelligence chiefs are to be summoned next week and asked if they know anything about any eavesdropping attempt.

However, officials in Berlin said the alleged bug found in the office of Wolfgang Neskovic, a leftist former judge who has demanded Steinmeier's resignation, was not a functioning one and its placement was too inept to have been the work of intelligence professionals.

The microphone of a type freely on sale was attached to a ceiling lamp and was visible, security officials said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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