US paid abductee al-Masri hush money: Schaeuble

15th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

15 December 2005, BERLIN - German investigators have questioned two men being held abroad on suspicion of terrorism, the German parliament was told Wednesday, but Berlin denied any role in the alleged abduction of another German citizen by the CIA.

15 December 2005

BERLIN - German investigators have questioned two men being held abroad on suspicion of terrorism, the German parliament was told Wednesday, but Berlin denied any role in the alleged abduction of another German citizen by the CIA.

Amid growing controversy in Germany about the U.S. practice of holding terror suspects beyond the reach of courts, parliament debated the detention abroad of three German nationals who are Muslim.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble confirmed that German federal police had questioned one of them, Mohammed Haidar Sammar, in Syria.

"According to my knowledge, they acted by the rules," he said. It was "not in the files" that Sammar had been tortured in Syria.

Germany is also investigating Sammar, who is of Syrian origin, over alleged links to al-Qaeda and the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. News reports claim he was captured by U.S. agents in Morocco and transferred to Syrian custody.

Schaeuble said a man had also been interviewed by German "security authorities" at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo, Cuba.

He did not name the man, although news reports this week have focussed on the case of Murat Kurnaz, a German of Turkish origin who has said he was questioned in German in Guantanamo by men who indicated they would "tell the Americans" about the interview.

At the start of the debate, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier rejected speculation that the government played a role in or had advance knowledge of the alleged abduction of Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, and vowed an investigation.

Al-Masri alleges that he was detained in Macedonia in December 2003 and then taken by CIA agents to Afghanistan. He says he was later flown back to Europe and released in Albania in May 2004.

In a new twist to the case, Schaeuble reportedly told the interior committee of parliament that the United States had already offered al-Masri both an apology and financial compensation, on the proviso that the 42-year-old remain silent about his ordeal.

Schaeuble's remarks, which were reported by ZDF television and were to appear in Thursday's issue of the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, suggested al-Masri had received the money.

State prosecutors in Munich are currently investigating al-Masri's allegations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had admitted that Washington had blundered in detaining al-Masri.

"We are talking about one case where the U.S. has admitted it made a mistake," said Merkel after talks in Berlin with Rice.

U.S. officials swiftly denied that Rice had made any such statement.

The al-Masri case has fuelled anger in Germany in connection with allegations the CIA used European airports for its so-called "rendition policy" of shipping terrorists to prisons abroad where they could be tortured.

Steinmeier slammed suggestions that Germany might also seek to have suspects sent abroad to be tortured as "disgraceful" and "irresponsible".

DPA

Subject: German news

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