US 'pressured' Germany on CIA arrests

2010-12-09 14:05
Washington - Leaked documents on Wednesday showed that Washington put intense pressure on Berlin not to enforce arrest warrants against CIA agents involved in the 2003 abduction of a German citizen mistakenly believed to be a terrorist.

The information, made public in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and first reported by the New York Times, involved Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin.

Masri, an unemployed car salesman, was captured in late December 2003 as he entered Macedonia on vacation. Local authorities mistook him for an al-Qaeda operative with a similar name and turned him over to the CIA.

Masri said he was held and tortured in a secret US prison in Afghanistan before US agents realised their mistake and released him, five months later, on an Albanian roadside.

Thirteen operatives believed to be Central Intelligence Agency agents were eventually charged in indictments issued in Munich as well as in Spain, which was involved because investigators concluded that the plane transporting Masri travelled through Spanish territory.

In a February 2007 cable classified "Secret", and titled "Al-Masri case - Chancellery aware of USG concerns", the US deputy chief of mission in Berlin, John Koenig, emphasised to German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel "that issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship".

Koening "pointed out that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German Government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the US".

The dispatch was written by William Timken, Washington's envoy to Berlin.

Masri's is one of the best-known cases of the "extraordinary renditions" undertaken by the CIA as part of the "war on terror".

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