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US Prisons in Germany

DW staff (sms)October 7, 2006

German federal prosecutors announced Saturday that they are looking into claims of human rights violations stemming from the alleged detention of terror suspects at secret US prisons in Germany.

Did the US military interrogate terror suspects in Germany?Image: AP

The allegations were reported to Mannheim officials by an anonymous source who claimed to have received the information from a third party, according to Frank Wallenta, a spokesman for the German prosecutors' office.

A witness had told prosecutors he had heard a US soldier refer to the detentions at the military facility in Mannheim near Frankfurt, the online edition of the German magazine Stern reported.

"The question is whether facts are behind this, or not," Wallenta said.

A plane lands at Ramstein Air Base
Ramstein Air Base is already at the center of a German investigationImage: dpa

The US military said no foreigners have been held in Germany since 1999. The United States maintains a confinement facility in Mannheim that is allowed to hold only US service members, Navy Capt. Jeff Gradeck, director for public affairs at the US military's European Command told the Associated Press.

Germany denied allegations on Friday that there were any high-level al Qaeda prisoners, including an accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, held at secret US prisons on its soil.

"There is nothing behind these allegations," German government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters, adding that there were not, and had never been, any secret American prisons in Germany.

Allegations stem from Guantanamo prisoners

Reprieve, a British charity representing detainees held by the United States at its Guantanamo Bay prison camp, published similar allegations on Friday.

Taliban Gefangene in Guantanamo
Three Guantanamo prisoners claimed the US had a prison in GermanyImage: AP

Reprieve said one Guantanamo detainee, Binyam Mohamed, reported he was told by Moroccan intelligence officers in 2003 or the beginning of 2004 that a key person in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States was held and questioned at a US Air Force facility in Germany.

Two other Guantanamo prisoners are also reported by Reprieve to have said they were aware of terror suspects who were interrogated in prisons in Germany.

Politicians call for additional inquiry

Politicians in Germany reacted cautiously, calling for further investigation of the allegations.

"In my opinion, the allegations are really very, very weak," German European Parliament member Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler told reporters. "I'm skeptical, but it's necessary to look at it.

The Road to Guantanamo
German politicians want the issue to be examined in an official inquiryImage: Roadside Attractions

He added that German officials were looking into US renditions that allegedly took place in 2003 at Ramstein Air Force Base and that authorities should also investigate Reprieve's report.

A 2005 Washington Post report about the possibility of terror suspects being held at secret US prisons in eastern Europe set off a number of inquires, which has thus far not turned up any of the alleged detention centers. The only European nations suspected of hosting such prisons are Poland and Romania.

US President George W. Bush acknowledged last month that the CIA operated secret prisons to hold and interrogate high-level al-Qaeda figures captured since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The 46-member Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the continent's top human rights watchdog, said in a recent report that several European states had helped the US carry out "extraordinary rendition" flights, which transported detainees to other states for interrogation.