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Secret Renditions

DW staff (mrm)January 29, 2009

German citizen Khaled el-Masri was arrested by the CIA in Skopje, Macedonia in 2003 and taken to Afghanistan where he claims he was tortured. He is now suing Macedonia for the part it played in his abduction.

Khaled el-Masri
Khaled el-Masri was abducted by the CIA in Macedonia in December 2003Image: AP

A German citizen of Lebanese descent is suing the eastern European nation of Macedonia for 50,000 euros ($65,000) in damages after being abducted there by the CIA and flown to Afghanistan for interrogation on terrorism charges, his lawyer said Monday, Jan. 26.

According to his lawyer, Khaled el-Masri was arrested by the American intelligence agency in Skopje in December, 2003 and held in a hotel near the American embassy for three weeks before being flown on one of the CIA's infamous rendition flights to Afghanistan and tortured.

This is just the latest in a succession of lawsuits by el-Masri, who has tried suing both the United States and Spain. The US Supreme Court upheld a decision to reject his case on national security grounds in 2007.

Masri, who worked as a car salesman, was traveling to Macedonia in late December 2003 to celebrate the new year. He was held in a hotel near the US embassy in the capital Skopje and questioned. He was asked in English, a language he does not speak well, about ties to al Qaeda and Islamic extremists.

The lawsuit said Macedonia violated provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, including on torture, liberty and respect for human rights.

Traumatic experience

El-Masri's lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, told the AFP news agency that his client was beaten and bullied for five months without explanation in Afghanistan before being freed in Albania.

Gnjidic has argued that the detention and interrogation of his client by the CIA left him traumatized and his mental distress led to him setting fire to a supermarket in Germany in 2007.

"He is undergoing therapy because still nowadays he cannot get his psyche under control," said Gnjidic. "He doesn't know who is responsible for what happened to him."

The CIA rendition flights took suspected terrorists captured in one country to another or a US-run detention center for questioning and, as many allege, torture. The program began after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.