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Europe

German CIA Detainee Testifies Before EU Committee

Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped by the CIA, told the special committee of the EU Parliament that he identified the German man who allegedly interrogated him during his imprisonment in Afghanistan.

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Khaled el Masri is suing the CIA over his kidnapping and imprisonment

After two hours of grilling by the special committee of the European Parliament on Monday, Khaled al-Masri seemed quite exhausted. He spoke with a soft voice and gave only a few details of his ordeal. The bulk of the information came from his lawyer who took over when al-Masri mixed up the facts and did not understand the questions.

Al-Masri, who was abducted in Macedonia in late 2003, said that a man called "Sam" questioned him three or four times during his imprisonment in Afghanistan. He said he recognized this man on a photograph and during a line-up and identity check in a police station in Germany recently.

"'Sam' is German, I am sure," al-Masri said. "I saw a picture of Gerhard Lehman, I am absolutely convinced that he was 'Sam'."

A man called Gerhard Lehman does indeed exist. He works for the German Federal Criminal Police, but the German police authorities said that Lehman had nothing to do with al-Masri's kidnapping.

Truth or dare

Central Intelligence Agency CIA Logo

The wrongful abudction of el Masri by the CIA is not being contested

The parliamentarians wanted to know why al-Masri was so sure that he was actually held in Afghanistan by the CIA. They also asked him why he had traveled to Macedonia when the rendition started. The answers al-Masri gave were not very convincing for everybody.

"I've never been to a hearing in which the words 'I don't know,' 'I assume,' and 'maybe' were used so frequently," said Elmar Brok, a German EU parliamentarian and member of the European People's Party. "No clear evidence was produced."

Brok added he is convinced that the German authorities are telling the truth.

"Obviously, the Americans conducted the abduction," he said. "Nobody is contesting that, but there is no evidence that the authorities of a member state of the European parliament participated or covered it up."

Lack of empathy

oezdemir journal interview 10.12.2004

Cem Özdemir: EU parliamentarians should show more empathy

Germany's EU parliamentarian Cem Özdemir of the Green party said he had no doubt that al-Masri was abducted and illegally held.

"We don't have to believe literally everything he says," Özdemir said. "But a parliamentarian should empathize with the fact that he was kidnapped and taken to Afghanistan, that he was obviously robbed of his freedom. Some Christian Democrat colleagues from Germany behaved here in a way which was unworthy of a parliament."

Now the authorities in Germany and Macedonia will have to answer tough questions and would have to prove that they did not cover up the kidnapping.

"I think Macedonia owes us an explanation, whether and when it informed Germany," Özdemir said. "Clearly, this did not happen, and that's not right."

The German parliament will start its own investigation into the matter shortly. Khaled al-Masri filed a suit against the CIA in Virginia. The state prosecutor in Munich is also investigating the case after al-Masri brought charges against the German authorities.

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