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. Rice Confronts CIA Transfers Case

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice steps out of her plane upon her arrival at Berlin's Tegel airport, 05 December 2005. Rice will meet German Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel 06 December. Berlin is the first part of her visit to Europe on an offensive aimed at countering deep concerns over reported secret CIA prisons on European soil. AFP photo DDP/Oliver Lang Germany Out.
By Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent
Kehl Am Rhein, Germany (UPI) Dec 05, 2005
Even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was visiting Europe to deal with the furor over secret detention camps in and CIA stopovers at Europe's airports, Khaled Masri has become the unwilling poster child of the U.S. "extraordinary rendition" program.

Masri, a German citizen born in Lebanon, was reportedly abducted by the CIA on Dec. 31, 2003, at the Macedonian border and flown to Afghanistan. Masri was held for five months and then released in Albania after the CIA found out it had captured the wrong man.

Now several German lawmakers want Germany's former interior minister Otto Schily, who left office last month, to comment on a U.S. news report claiming he knew about Masri's wrongful abduction. The Washington Post on Dec. 4 reported that in May 2004, the U.S. Ambassador in Berlin, Daniel Coats, informed Schily about the Masri case. "There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public," the newspaper said.

Wolfgang Bosbach, who heads the parliamentary faction of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat Union, told the online daily Netzeitung that the Post article contained the "extensive allegation that the German interior minister, who at the same time had the job to defend the constitution, remained silent about the abduction of a German national." Bosbach and several other politicians have called on Schily to comment, which he hasn't done so far.

Schily introduced tough anti-terror laws and was considered a hard line interior minister. While still in office he came under fire for ordering a raid on an investigative journalist who in an article revealed secrets about Germany's federal intelligence service, the BND.

Several lawmakers have speculated that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who then headed the chancellery and is now Germany's new foreign minister, must also have known of the Masri abduction. That would extend the list into the new left-right grand coalition government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday.

A German state prosecutor in Munich has been investigating the case since the summer of 2004. Masri alleges that he was tortured during his five-month-long detention; and Masri's lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, wants to file suit in the United States to coincide with Rice's visit to Germany.

The Masri case is linked to the allegations that the CIA uses secret flights in Europe to transport terror suspects to secret prisons in third countries, the so-called "extraordinary rendition" program. So far, German officials have vowed they knew nothing of such a practice. But with the new report, those statements have come under increased scrutiny.

On Monday, Germany's newsmagazine Der Spiegel said the German government had a list of 437 CIA flights using German airspace and landings since Sept. 11, 2001. The list was handed over to the government by Germany's federal air navigation security agency at the request of the Left Party, a far-left group in Germany's parliament, the magazine said.

In a robust statement issued shortly before she left on a four-day tour of European capitals Monday, Rice focussed on a denial that the U.S. government uses torture. But she added that the United States would stay firm in the fight against terrorism, and use "every lawful weapon" to win that battle. Faced with mounting criticism in Europe, she argued that, "Rendition takes terrorists out of action and saves lives."

But she is expected to refuse to address the underlying question of whether the CIA runs secret prisons on air bases in Eastern Europe. "We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations,"she said in her statement.

Beate Rudolf, human rights expert at Berlin's Free University, told United Press International the German government should reveal what it knows about secret CIA flights and the Masri case. "If the German government indeed knew about any abduction, that would be terrible," she said. "We are talking about human rights violations of the most serious kind here."

Source: United Press International

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London (UPI) Nov 30, 2005
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