US authorities in Afghanistan have been holding a German terror suspect in custody for months, the German government said. The German of Afghan origin was said to have been on a US base without authorization.
Germany has troops in Afghanistan
"I can confirm to you that a German national is in American custody in Afghanistan," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Reuters TV in Dortmund, in western Germany, on Saturday, April 19.
"We are making an effort with the American government for a release," Steinmeier said.
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier spoke with the US about the suspect
The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel had earlier reported that the citizen was a 41-year-old German man who, according to German security authorities, posed no terror threat.
US forces have apparently been holding the man since early January.
"He is accused of being on an American base without permission," German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said.
Der Spiegel's online portal had named the man as Gholam Ghaus Z., saying he had been in Afghanistan to visit relatives.
Out buying a razor
According to Der Spiegel, the man was arrested as he was trying to buy a razor at a supermarket on the US base. The magazine reported that currency from various countries was found on the man, leading the US military authorities to suspect a terrorist link.
Gholam Ghaus Z. is apparently being held at the Bagram base near the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Der Spiegel reported that it had information that German intelligence officers had interviewed the man, who hails from the western city of Wuppertal, and found nothing suspicious.
German citizen Kurnaz was held at Guantanamo Bay
The magazine said that Foreign Minister Steinmeier had raised his concerns about the case with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the beginning of March.
US authorities had demanded security guarantees regarding Gholam Ghaus Z. that were equivalent to complete surveillance, but German authorities felt they could not meet these conditions, the magazine said.
Another German terror suspect held
A similar case involved German-born Turk Murat Kurnaz, who was picked up in Pakistan in 2001 and detained as a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay for four years despite findings by US investigators that he had no link to the terrorist organization al Qaeda.
Kurnaz was turned over to German authorities and freed in 2006 after a personal plea from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.