A German citizen mistakenly kidnapped in a CIA "extraordinary rendition" case is suing the justice ministry to force the extradition of CIA agents.
Lebanese-born German citizen Khaled al-Masri together with a group of American and German human rights lawyers filed a civil suit on Monday, June 9 against Germany's Justice Ministry to push for the extradition of 13 CIA agents who allegedly kidnapped and tortured al-Masri.
If the lawyers win, the ministry would be forced to pursue the extradition, Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck told reporters.
Arrest warrants ignored
Khaled al-Masri claims he was mistaken as a terrorist
Al-Masri claims to have been part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, in which terror suspects were transported to secret prisons in third countries for interrogation.
Al-Masri said the CIA kidnapped him on Dec. 31, 2003 in Macedonia after he was confused with a Sept. 11 terror suspect. He was then taken to Afghanistan, where he says he was interrogated and tortured for four months before being released in Albania.
A German court in southern Munich issued arrest warrants for the 13 CIA agents allegedly involved in al-Masri's abduction in January, 2007. The agents were accused of wrongful imprisonment and causing bodily harm. But German Justice Ministry officials decided in September last year that they would not pursue the suspects' extradition to Germany.
US keeps mum
Secret CIA flights caused outrage in Europe
The United States has never admitted that it played any role in al-Masri's detention. The US administration also has asserted the so-called state secrets privilege in an effort to dismiss the lawsuits over the warrantless domestic spying program that President George W. Bush created after the Sept. 11 attacks.
After his release, al-Masri brought a lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet, three private aviation companies and 20 unnamed employees of the CIA and the companies.
The US Supreme Court turned down a request to review al-Masri's case last year. US administration officials had asked that the court reject the case on national security grounds, arguing a public trial would reveal state secrets.
Questions of European complicity
The al-Masri case sparked outrage in Germany and Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel brought it up during meetings with top US officials. Yet critics have accused the German government of not aggressively pursuing the case against the CIA agents to try and avoid antagonizing the US.
Human rights groups accuse the US of having used extraordinary rendition in order to interrogate suspected terrorists under methods not allowed in the US itself, including torture.
Both the German government and the European Parliament launched inquires into the program to find out what role, if any, European security forces may have played in the US rendition program.
Earlier this year, Britain confirmed that the US had used its territory to transport suspected terrorists on secret flights. The European Commission has called on Poland and Romania to clarify their roles in the US extraordinary rendition program.