Mistaken terrorist el-Masri sues Macedonia over CIA’s wild ride

John Dyer By John Dyer

Khaled el-Masri talks to the press in Spain in 2006. A German citizen, he claims he was mistakenly kidnapped and tortured by CIA agents in 2003. (Reuters/Susana Vera)

Revelations of the CIA’s so-called extraordinary renditions of suspected terrorists in Europe caused an uproar among human rights activists on the continent a few years ago.

For some alleged victims of the “renditions,” like Khaled el-Masri, the controversy hasn’t gone away.

On Wednesday, May 16 the European Court of Human Rights heard opening arguments in el-Masri’s case against Macedonia. The German citizen of Arab descent alleges Macedonian border guards violated his human rights by abducting him in 2003 and turning him over to American agents. The American agents then flew him to Afghanistan and tortured him, the BBC reports.

Four months later, the CIA reportedly realized that they had mistaken el-Masri for an alleged Al Qaeda terrorist who shares a similar name. The BBC summarizes his alleged ordeal:

He says four of those months were spent in a secret prison outside Kabul, nicknamed the “salt pit”.

During the flight to Afghanistan, he was stripped, beaten, shackled, made to wear nappies and drugged, he says.

He says his ordeal ended when he was eventually dumped on a road in Albania after the Americans realized they had gotten the wrong man.

Ever since the episode, el-Masri has been seeking justice. Human rights groups, naturally, have been on his side. But his lawsuits in U.S. and German courts have fizzled, undermining his credibility. His imprisonment in Ulm, Germany two years ago for assaulting that town’s mayor also hasn’t helped his rep. El-Masri’s advocates explained his behavior by saying he’s been suffering from trauma.

Now, however, The Telegraph in London reports that he might have new, powerful evidence that proves his story: “…a former senior minister of the Macedonian government has provided testimony that is in the file, essentially confirming Mr el-Masri’s account.”

Reports said the court would likely take several months to rule on the case. In the meantime, President Barack Obama controversially has promised to keep up the rendition policy, though he’s said he’ll monitor the fate of apprehended suspects more carefully.

Straight to the Source