Minister Says Merkel Rallied to Free Former Guantanamo Inmate | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 11.05.2007
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Minister Says Merkel Rallied to Free Former Guantanamo Inmate

Chancellor Merkel's chief of staff told a parliamentary committee investigating the case of former Guantanamo inmate Murat Kurnaz that the German leader had campaigned hard for his release.

Kurnaz has painted a disturbing picture of his time in Guantanamo Bay

Kurnaz has painted a disturbing picture of his time in Guantanamo Bay

Kurnaz, who is a Turkish citizen with legal residence in Germany, was arrested in Pakistan soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and handed over to US authorities. He eventually landed in the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he claims to have been tortured until his release in August 2006 -- despite a lack of proof that he had belonged to a terrorist group.

Thomas de Maizière

Merkel's chief of staff Thomas de Maiziere praised the Chancellor's intervention in the Kurnaz case

Kurnaz was freed after Chancellor Angela Merkel came to power in 2005 and raised the issue of his captivity with US President George Bush. By then, however, the man dubbed "Bremen Taliban" by the German press, had spent four and a half years languishing in the notorious US camp for terrorist suspects and those designated as "enemy combatants."

"We made a compromise decision in which the humanitarian aspect took precedent over the security interests," de Maiziere said on Thursday after testifying before a parliamentary committee investigating the affair.

The committee is probing whether the previous government -- led by Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder -- turned down an offer by the US to release Kurnaz in 2002 after American officials found he posed no danger, as is claimed by Kurnaz.

Born in Germany

De Maiziere said that Angela Merkel's government intervened on Kurnaz' behalf because he was born and grew up in Germany.

"We felt responsible for making the decision we made," de Maiziere said.

De Maiziere, who is a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Party (CDU), chose not to criticize the former Social Democrat-Green government saying that one could not compare the situation in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and circumstances four years later.

Schröder's government has been criticized in Germany for not doing enough to help Kurnaz get released earlier.

Kurnaz is now living in his home city of Bremen. Last month he published a memoir which paints a disturbing picture of the time he spent imprisoned in Guantanamo.

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