Germany Stands Firm on Civil Liberties

A German court issued warrants for the arrest of 13 people who kidnapped an innocent German citizen and detained him in a CIA secret prison.

Prosecutors in Munich said the suspects, whom they did not identify, were part of a C.I.A. “abduction team” that seized the man, Khaled el-Masri, in Macedonia in late 2003 and flew him to Afghanistan. He was imprisoned there for five months, during which, he said, he was shackled, beaten and interrogated about alleged ties to Al Qaeda, before being released without charges.

His ordeal is the most extensively documented case of the C.I.A.’s practice of “extraordinary rendition,” in which terrorism suspects are seized and sent for interrogation to other countries, including some in which torture is practiced.

“This is a very consequential step,” August Stern, the prosecutor in Munich, said in a telephone interview. “It is a necessary step before bringing a criminal case against these people.”

Naturally, the United States will actively try to derail the investigation. The International Criminal Court, whose authority it won’t accept, deals with far graver matters than the kidnapping and torture of one innocent civilian. A country irresponsible enough to believe its isolationist sense of national pride is more important than human rights won’t cooperate with any such investigation.

However, Germany has been a possibly unwitting enabler to many of the USA’s atrocities; the CIA uses Frankfurt Airport as well as the US base at Ramstein as hubs for its activities. The warrant can dragoon the federal government of Germany to be less cooperative, making it harder for the CIA to kidnap people. In addition, that and an older Italian warrant for the arrest of 25 CIA agents will make it harder for those agents to move around Europe.

3 Responses to Germany Stands Firm on Civil Liberties

  1. Axel says:

    Neither the actual government nor the former red-green coalition was actively involved in clearing up the whole el-Masri affair or made a complaint to the US. A parliament inquiry is actually looking into whether the German secret services played a role and what the former government really knew. Well, they knew a lot and for obvious “transatlantic” reasons government politicians aren’t very interested in bringing new facts to light. Fortunately, the German justice system wasn’t afraid to be aggressive.

    But first of all, it was the German media who went into the matter. In February 2005, El-Masri’s story was firstly reported in “Frontal 21” investigation magazine. The journalists checked his story, e.g. took his hand-drawn memory of the Macedonian hotel room along to Skopje and found a match.,1872,2256793,00.html

    Afterwards, other journalists independently confirmed details of El-Masri’s extraordinary claims but the Munich prosecutiors weren’t very successfull in identifying the kidnappers. In 2006, journalists from “Panorama” investigation magazine checked the Boing 737 flight number and the Spanish Guardia Civil passport data and uncovered the real names of three involved Aero Contractors (the Air America follower) pilots with the aliases Eric Fain, James Fairing and Kirk James Bird. Careless CIA… When German journalists came to see the three in their homes in North Caroline, they weren’t very communicative.,2570,OID3123030,00.html

    Honour to whom honour is due. And another example how powerfull public broadcasting can be.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Why didn’t the prosecutors in Munich investigate the flight number and uncover the real names of the Aero contractors?

  3. Axel says:

    Good question. I’m not aware of other facts than those mentioned in the Washington Post article from October 4, 2006 (“German Lawmakers Fault Abduction Probe. Prosecutors Say Lack of U.S. Cooperation Stalling Inquiry Into Alleged CIA Operation”)

    Personally, I think the the main reasons were not political but rather trivial: work to rule instead of unconventional investigations and the feeling that the investigation’s results are good for nothing. Some days after the media coverage in 2006, the prosecutors officially warned the Federal Criminal Police Office about the 13 persons and sent all their information. Doesn’t sound like a cover up for me.

    At the end of January, a new EU report was released: “EU Report Slams Members for Involvement in Secret CIA Affair. European Union lawmakers have approved a report which lashes out at EU countries for tolerating or assisting the United States’ practice of secret detentions of terrorist suspects. At least 10 European states, including Britain, Poland, Italy and Germany aided or knew about the CIA’s clandestine program of taking terrorism suspects to other countries for interrogation, the report said.”,2144,2324739,00.html

    If you are interested in the original documents, just look at:

    By the way, A.C. Thompson and Trevor Paglen published the brilliant book “Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights” about their own investigations. They spent months tracking the CIA flights and the businesses, e.g. “Aero Contractors” in Smithfield, behind them.

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