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.