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German FM Knew of CIA Detainee Case Last Year

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has revealed that he knew for more than a year that the CIA had allegedly abducted a German national after the man filed a lawsuit against the agency Tuesday.

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Steinmeier new about the alleged abduction

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted Tuesday that he was informed last year of the case of Khaled el-Masri, who was seized by the CIA and flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan.

"I learned of the case in June 2004 from a lawyer's letter that was then passed on to us in the chancellery," Steinmeier said.

Before becoming foreign minister, Steinmeier was chief of staff to then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Press reports on Wednesday said the case was examined by Germany's federal intelligence service, but it was not known what conclusion they reached.

Allegedly abducted and abused

El-Masri on Tuesday filed a landmark lawsuit against the CIA in a US federal court alleging he was wrongfully abducted and abused as a prisoner.

Khaled el Masri wurde von der CIA entführt

Mistakenly detained, he says

The 42-year-old German of Lebanese descent was seized in Macedonia in December 2003 and flown to a prison in Afghanistan for interrogation. He was released five months later.

The case is likely to focus more attention on the issue of the CIA's so-called "rendition" program in which they allegedly seize suspects in one country and take them to another for questioning.

Former German interior minister Otto Schily has been under pressure to explain press reports that he had been informed of the detention of Masri but had been asked by Washington to keep quiet about it.

Schily told German newspaper Die Zeit this week that he had received no information about Masri's detention "at a time when I could have done anything about it", according to an advance extract of the newspaper released on Wednesday.

A misunderstanding

Condoleezza Rice in Berlin Angela Merkel

A mistake, US officials say

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the case in Berlin on Tuesday, when Merkel said the detention of Masri "was accepted as a mistake by the US government."

Rice said she could not comment on individual cases, but added: "In every policy, mistakes will be made. "But we will do everything we can to rectify them as quickly as possible."

US officials later suggested Merkel's comments were a misunderstanding between her and Rice.

Merkel also announced that the case would be examined by a German parliamentary committee.

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