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Opposition Says Germany Should Probe CIA Prison Allegations

DW staff (ncy)November 18, 2005

Germany has been named as a stopping off point for planes that allegedly transported terror suspects to secret CIA prisons in European countries. The government has no plans to investigate. The opposition says it should.

Ramstein base in Germany: used in the abduction of a CIA suspect?Image: dpa

Germany will instead wait until it gets the results of an investigation by the public prosecutor in the town of Zweibrücken, a spokesperson for the German foreign ministry told the Berliner Zeitung daily.

The Zweibrücken public prosecutor is examining the February 2003 kidnapping in Italy by CIA agents of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, a former imam who was allegedly brought to the US military base at Ramstein in southwestern Germany prior to his being taken to his native country, Egypt. In Italy last week, the Milan public prosecutor demanded the extradition of 22 CIA agents believed to have been involved in the abduction of Omar, the subject of an Italian anti-terrorist investigation.

"The foreign minister should have a talk with the US ambassador," top Free Democratic Party politician Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the Berliner Zeitung. "If the so far unproven accusations are correct, it would be outrageous," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

Green party military expert Winfried Nachtwei also said the German government should talk to the Americans, and find out what happened. If the allegations were indeed true, they would be "highly alarming."

US collusion in kidnapping of German?

The Washington Post reported in early November that that the CIA had been holding al-Qaeda suspects in prisons in countries in Asia and "several democracies in eastern Europe," in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. US-based independent watchdog Human Rights Watch said it was "practically convinced" that such detention centers, so-called black sites, existed.

In another case, Munich public prosecutors are investigating the alleged kidnapping of Lebanese-born German national Khaled el Masri. He says Americans were involved in his kidnapping on Dec. 31, 2003 on the Serbian-Macedonian border. He claims he was held prisoner in a Macedonian hotel for 23 days, after which he was flown to a jail in Afghanistan and accused of being a member of al Qaeda. He was only taken back to Europe following months of interrogation, he says.

As the scandal develops and the public outcry in Europe mounts, the onus will be on European leaders, rather than Washington officials, to explain themselves to their constituencies and to the European Union, Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the Brookings Institution's Center on the United States and Europe and an expert on military and national security issues, told AFP.

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr alias Imams Abu Omar, Porträt
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, aka Abu Omar, who was allegedly kidnapped in Milan by CIA agents as he walked to his mosque for noon prayersImage: dpa

"This is likely to be a test for the EU," Shapiro said. "I don't think it's going to be a huge problem for the US government or for transatlantic relations, but it is going to be perhaps a domestic issue in some of these countries and perhaps an intra-European issue in calling into question just what being a member of the EU allows you to do and not do."

Washington mum

Europa Rat Council of Europe
The onus seems to be on Europe to investigate the allegationsImage: AP

Officials in Washington have largely kept silent on the issue, as has the US media. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said relations with all the countries mentioned as possible sites of prisons or stopovers -- including Germany, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Norway, Poland, Romania and Sweden -- had not been affected by the allegations, AFP reported.

"With all of those countries, we have close, cordial, cooperative relations on a wide range of issues, including cooperation in the global war on terror, and that kind of understanding and cooperation and partnership continues," he said.

Sweden on Thursday became the latest country to announce it would probe the allegations that CIA planes carrying prisoners stopped on their territory. Norway, Portugal and Spain have also opened inquiries.