German government officials said Saturday, Sept. 22, they won't pursue the extradition of CIA agents suspected of kidnapping a German national after Washington signaled that it won't cooperate, according to news reports.
Washington won't allow any stains on the image of its intelligence agency
German officials will not press their US counterparts to arrest a team of 13 CIA agents, who are suspected of illegally detaining a Lebanese-born German national, Khaled el Masri, after he was wrongfully suspected of terrorism.
German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, in an advance report on its Monday issue, wrote that Berlin does not plan to forward an extradition request by Munich prosecutors to arrest the agents linked to the detention of el Masri in Macedonia in December 2003.
Masri still suffering from imprisonment?
El Masri is now facing criminal charges himself
Prosecutors issued warrants for the agents at the end of January, accusing the unnamed suspects of wrongfully imprisoning el Masri and causing him serious bodily harm.
El Masri, 44, told a German parliamentary inquiry he had been flown to Afghanistan and tortured over a five-month period.
Earlier this month, he was indicted for an arson attack on a cash-and-carry market. He is accused of setting fire to several cans of petrol and causing damage worth 500,000 euros ($700,000). His lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, has blamed Masri's behavior on the events of 2004.
Justice minister wants to avoid coalition trouble
According to the magazine, the German justice ministry inquired in Washington about how a request would be handled and was informed in clear terms that the agents would not be arrested.
Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries then reportedly decided not to press the issue in order not to exacerbate divisions within the grand coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the magazine said. A justice ministry spokeswoman confirmed the report to AP news service.
Harming US-German relations?
Schäuble (left) and Zypries have had a rocky relationship
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had opposed the application for fear it would harm relations with the US, in particular with regard to intelligence on terrorist suspects. Schäuble, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), and Zypries, of the junior partner in the coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD), have clashed in recent weeks over the interior minister's plans to spy on the personal computers of terrorist suspects.
Schäuble also made headlines this week by saying that a nuclear terrorist attack was just a matter of time and that people should enjoy the time they had left instead of panicking.
Increasing divisions have opened up within the cabinet over the past week on a range of issues, many of them centred on countering terrorism.