The anonymous claim that German officials knew of the abduction has been deniedImage: Getty Images /G. Gershoff
Steinmeier Denies Claim of German Complicity in CIA Scandal
DW staff / AFP (nda)
December 10, 2005
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier strongly denied Saturday any involvement by Berlin in the abduction and detention of a German national by the US Central Intelligence Agency.
"The anonymous allegation that German agents were involved in the transfer of (Khaled) el-Masri is revolting and irresponsible," he said in an interview published in the mass-circulation Bild newspaper.
"The actions of the authorities are motivated by rights and the law."
The Berliner Zeitung quoted an unnamed German official Friday as saying that German intelligence agents gave the United States information about Masri that might have contributed to his detention by the CIA.
The case of Masri, who was seized in the Balkans in late 2003 and detained in Afghanistan for five months, has added to a controversy over secret CIA prisons and prisoner flights through Europe.
"It is remarkable that the Americans, when questioning Masri in Afghanistan, interrogated him on the basis of information obtained from us," the official added.
Official claims alleged al Qaeda links led to deal
He said the exchange of information between German and US agents was motivated by suspicions that Masri was linked to Seyam Reda, a German national of Egyptian origin who is in turn suspected of having ties with the al Qaeda organization.
But German state prosecutors in Munich, who opened an investigation into the Masri case last year, on Friday said they had "no information indicating that he entertained ties with Islamists of a nature that contravenes the law."
Masri this week filed a landmark lawsuit against the CIA in a US federal court, alleging that he was wrongfully abducted and abused as a prisoner.
The 42-year-old German of Lebanese descent was seized in Macedonia in December 2003 and flown to a prison in Afghanistan for interrogation. He was released in Albania on May 28 the following year.
Steinmeier denies all accusations
Steinmeier, who also held a ministerial post at the time, denied allegations that the government failed to react to the case or withheld information about it. "The chancellor's office learned the facts in June 2004, a few days after Masri's return, through a letter from his lawyer. We passed on the information to the competent authorities."
The case has also caused controversy in Germany because of reports that the government was asked by Washington to keep quiet about it.
The matter was raised at a meeting on Tuesday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was on a four-nation tour of Europe dogged by the secret prisons controversy.
Merkel has announced that the case would be examined by a German parliamentary committee.