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The Kidnapping of Khaled El-Masri (Khalid Al-Masri)



Media Reports

Legal Documents

Government Documents

Photo Credits




“[…] A man is walking alone along a mountain path in the darkness. He is carrying a suitcase. He seems frightened, tired and confused. He has long hair and a long beard, but they are untidy, as if he did not grow them voluntarily. He turns a bend and meets three men carrying Kalashnikovs.


“The man shows them his passport. It indicates that he is a German citizen, born in Lebanon, called Khaled el-Masri. Using poor English, he tells them that he does not know where he is. They tell him that he is on the Albanian border, close to Serbia and Macedonia, and that he is there illegally since he doesn't have an Albanian stamp in his passport.


“The story that el-Masri tells them by way of explanation, on this evening in late May 2004, is extraordinary: a story of how an unemployed German car salesman from the town of Ulm went on a New Year’s holiday to Macedonia, was seized by Macedonian police at the border, held incommunicado for weeks without charge, then beaten, stripped, shackled and blindfolded and flown to a jail in Afghanistan, run by Afghans but controlled by Americans.


“Five months after first being seized, he says, still with no explanation or charge, he was flown back to Europe and dumped in an unknown country which turned out to be Albania. […]”


Excerpt of a Guardian article from January 14th, 2005.

Khalid Al-Masri


Media Reports


December 10th, 2010 - Court Rejects El-Masri Suit Against German Gov’t

1 news article from the Associated Press


December 8th, 2010 - Officials Pressed Germans on Kidnapping by C.I.A.

1 news article from the New York Times


May 14th, 2010 - Fake British Passports ‘Used by CIA’ in Terror Abductions - Claim

1 news article from the Daily Telegraph


May 12th, 2010 - El Fiscal Solicita el Arresto de 13 Espías de EE UU que tripularon los Vuelos de la CIA

1 news article from El Pais (in Spanish)


March 30th, 2010 - Alleged CIA Victim Sentenced Over Mayor Attack

1 news article from the Associated Press


September 15th, 2009 - Der seltsame Fall des Khaled El-Masri

1 news article from Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German)


September 8th, 2009 - Rendition Victim Still Seeking Justice

1 news article from Inter Press Service


August 27th, 2009 - International Tribunal Takes Up Rendition, Torture Case

1 news article from the Public Record


January 26th, 2009 - German Sues Macedonia Over Capture, Torture

1 news article from Die Welt


June 9th, 2008 - Renditions Victim to Sue German Government

1 news article by Spiegel magazine


April 9th, 2008 - ACLU Petitions Panel in CIA Case

1 news article by the Associated Press


October 9th, 2007 - Top US Court Rejects CIA Kidnap Case

1 news article by Agence France Presse


September 24th, 2007 - No Justice for El-Masri

1 news article by Spiegel magazine


June 25th, 2007 - CIA Arrest Warrants Strain US-German Ties

1 news article by Spiegel magazine


May 19th, 2007 - Rendition Victim Sent to Mental Institution after Arson Attack

1 news article by the Independent


March 2nd, 2007 - Appeals Court Dismisses CIA Torture Lawsuit

1 news article by Reuters


February 18th, 2007 - Pilots Traced to CIA Renditions

1 news article by the Los Angeles Times


February 1st, 2007 - German Court Challenges C.I.A. Over Abduction

1 news article by the New York Times & press release by NDR television


November 28th, 2006 - Appeals Court Hears Case Alleging CIA Torture of German Man

1 news article by the


July 17th, 2006 - U.S. Rejects German Prosecutor's Request in CIA Abduction Case

1 news article by Bloomberg


July 7th, 2006 - Algerian Tells of Dark Term in U.S. Hands

1 news article by the New York Times


June 22nd, 2006 - Witness in CIA Inquiry Told Germans of Missing Man

1 news article by Reuters


May 19th, 2006 - Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Man Held in Terror Program

1 news article by the New York Times


May 13th, 2006 - Secrecy Privilege Invoked in Fighting Ex-Detainee’s Lawsuit

1 news article by the Washington Post


February 21st, 2006 - Germany Weighs if It Played Role in Seizure by U.S.

1 news article by the New York Times


January 14th, 2005 - ‘They Beat Me From All Sides’

1 news article by the Guardian


Legal Documents


Khaled El-Masri vs. United States of America, George Tenet, Executive Transport Services et al

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Case No.: 06-1667


March 2nd, 2007 - Opinion


“[...] Khaled El-Masri appeals from the dismissal of his civil action against former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, three corporate defendants, ten unnamed employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (the ‘CIA’), and ten unnamed employees of the defendant corporations. In his Complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia, El-Masri alleged that the defendants were involved in a CIA operation in which he was detained and interrogated in violation of his rights under the Constitution and international law.


The United States intervened as a defendant in the district court, asserting that El-Masri’s civil action could not proceed because it posed an unreasonable risk that privileged state secrets would be disclosed. By its Order of May 12, 2006, the district court agreed with the position of the United States and dismissed El-Masri’s Complaint. See El-Masri v. Tenet, 437 F. Supp. 2d 530, 541 (E.D. Va. 2006) (the ‘Order’). On appeal, El-Masri contends that the district court misapplied the state secrets doctrine and erred in dismissing his Complaint. As explained below, we affirm. [...]


Khaled Al-Masri vs. George Tenet, Executive Transport Services et al

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Case No.: 1:05-cv-01417-TSE


May 12th, 2006 - Final Order


December 6th, 2005 - Complaint


“[…] 1. On December 31, 2003, Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia, detained incommunicado, handed over to United States agents, then beaten, drugged, and transported to a secret prison in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to inhumane conditions and coercive interrogation and was detained without charge or public disclosure for several months. Five months after his abduction, Mr. El-Masri was deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania.


“2. Not long after Mr. El-Masri was flown to Afghanistan, Central Intelligence Agency (‘CIA’) officials realized that they had abducted, detained, and interrogated an innocent man. Defendant George Tenet, former director of the CIA, was notified about the mistake, yet Mr. El-Masri’s unlawful detention and inhumane treatment continued for two additional months.


“3. Mr. El-Masri’s abduction, detention, and interrogation without legal process were carried out pursuant to an unlawful policy and practice devised and implemented by defendant Tenet known as ‘extraordinary rendition’: the clandestine abduction and detention outside the United States of persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, and their subsequent interrogation using methods impermissible under U.S. and international laws. The current Director of Central Intelligence, Porter Goss, has described this practice in congressional testimony as ‘a ‘kinetic’ solution on foreign soil.’


“4. Mr. El-Masri brings this action against Mr. Tenet, who promulgated this unlawful policy and who directed the agents and subordinates who carried out the unlawful acts described herein; against current and former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency who participated directly in Mr. El-Masri’s abduction, detention, and interrogation; and against the aviation corporations that supplied the aircraft and personnel used in the unlawful transfer, knowing that they were to be used in Mr. El-Masri’s secret detention and interrogation in Afghanistan, thereby conspiring in and aiding and abetting the violation of Mr. El-Masri’s rights under the United States Constitution and the law of nations, including his right to be free from prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. […]”



Government Documents


February 6th, 2007 - Al-Masri Case - Chancellery aware of USG Concerns

Report by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany


“[…] 1. (S/NF) In a February 6 discussion with German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel, the DCM reiterated our strong concerns about the possible issuance of international arrest warrants in the al-Masri case. The DCM noted that the reports in the German media of the discussion on the issue between the Secretary and FM Steinmeier in Washington were not accurate, in that the media reports suggest the USG was not troubled by developments in the al-Masri case. The DCM emphasized that this was not the case and that issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship. He reminded Nikel of the repercussions to U.S.-Italian bilateral relations in the wake of a similar move by Italian authorities last year.


“2. (S/NF) The DCM pointed out that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German Government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S. We of course recognized the independence of the German judiciary, but noted that a decision to issue international arrest warrants or extradition requests would require the concurrence of the German Federal Government, specifically the MFA and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The DCM said our initial  indications had been that the German federal authorities would not allow the warrants to be issued, but that subsequent contacts led us to believe this was not the case. […]”


July 11th, 2006 - Exchange of views with Mr. Hofmann, Munich prosecutor

Report by the Council of the Euorpean Union


“[…] After having given account of the testimony of Mr El-Masri, Mr Hofmann told the Committee that Mr El-Masri’s personal belongings had been subjected to microbiological tests and that the earplugs had been tested for DNA. The results of the tests did not form a basis for further investigation. With regard to his clothes, the marks indicating the country of manufacturing had been removed. It had been possible to secure Mr El-Masri’s fingerprints on his clothes, as well as fingerprints from two other persons. The identity of these persons could, however, not be established. There was an exit stamp from FYROM, dated 23 January 2004 in Mr El-Masri’s passport, but it was not possible to identify the border point in question. After having returned to Germany, Mr El-Masri was examined by medical services in Munich. […] An isotope examination of his hair had been requested and carried out. Changes in the isotope signature of his hair had been established. Two experts considered it probable that these changes were due to the events told by Mr El-Masri. One expert concluded that the change in the isotope structure showed a change in living conditions which in time could coincide with the account given by Mr El-Masri, or that it at least did not contradict his account of the events. […]


“Mr El-Masri was of the opinion that he landed in Kabul and that the prison was situated there. The Munich prosecutor’s office had carried out investigations on the basis of that hypothesis. With regard to the weather conditions in Kabul for the day when Mr El-Masri said that he arrived at the prison, Mr Hofmann told the Committee that it had been established that the temperature had been between 6.8°C and 14.3°C. Mr El-Masri had also mentioned that there was a possible earthquake in April 2004. The prosecutor’s office had received information that there had been earthquakes in Kabul in April 2004. The German liaison officer in Kabul remembered that there had been an earthquake in the morning one day at the beginning of May 2004. Mr Hofmann said that there was a person who was a possible witness of Mr El-Masri’s imprisonment in Kabul, but that it had not been possible to reach that person. At this stage of the investigation, Mr Hofmann had not found anything that contradicted the statements given by Mr El-Masri. […]”


March 17th, 2006 - Exchange of views with Mr. El-Masri

Report by the Council of the European Union


“[…] Mr Gnjidic told the Committee about the abduction of Mr El-Masri. Mr EL-Masri left Germany on 31 December 2003 to go on holiday in Skopje in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). At the border of FYROM, Mr EL-Masri’s passport was confiscated and he was asked to leave the bus that he was on. He was taken by Macedonian policemen to Skopje where he was held at a hotel for 23 days. He was not given any opportunity to contact a lawyer, the German embassy or his family. When he tried to leave, three armed guards threatened to shoot him.


“He was questioned about various aspects of his life and about trips that he had made to Norway. He was told that if he confessed to being a member of Al-Qaeda he would be sent back to Germany, but refused to sign any statement that he was a member of that organisation. He objected to his confinement by going on a hunger strike. On 23 January 2004, seven or eight Macedonians arrived to the hotel. They filmed him, forcing him to say before the camera that he was being well treated. He was taken away to undergo what was called a medical examination. He was beaten, stripped and was subjected to great violence by seven or eight men who were dressed in black and wore ski masks, before he was taken on board a plane and left Skopje. He got a stamp in his passport. […]”


February 6th, 2006 - Subject: Macedonia: Prime Minister On Elections, NATO Accession, […]

Confidential Report by the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia


“[…] El-Masri: Stay The Course


“11. (C/NOFORN) Concerning the case of a German citizen of Lebanese descent who has claimed that Macedonian authorities detained him in January 2004 and handed him over to the CIA for a rendition flight to Afghanistan, Buckovski noted that the GOM would stay the course and would continue to support the Minister of Interior, who has declined to discuss the matter with the local press. Buckovski was relieved to hear from the Ambassador that we would not shift course, either, and would continue to decline to discuss in public specific cases. The Prime Minister suggested that the Ambassador coordinate on the issue with the German Embassy in Skopje, suggesting that the Germans were putting pressure on the Macedonians to be more forthcoming. The Ambassador demurred. […]”


Individuals, Locations & Airplanes

BKA official Gerhard Lehmann

Pul-i-Charki prison near Kabul

CIA airplane: Boeing 737-7BC


Photo Credits




1) and 2) Khaled El-Masri aka Khalid Al-Masri - 2005 & 2006 - Stern Magazin/(2) Gerard Cerles/AFP;


Individuals, Locations & Airplanes


1) Gerhard Lehmann, Investigator of the German Federal Federal Police (“Bundekriminalamt” = “BKA”) and Chief Public Prosecutor Detlev Mehlis - December 2005 - Saar-Echo;

2) Pul-i-Charki prison near the Afghan capital of Kabul. - Date unknown - Tim Wimborne/Reuters;

3) Boeing 737-7BC(BBJ), Premier Executive Transport Services, Registration-No.: N313P, Geneva-Cointrin, LSGG, Switzerland - December 24th, 2003 - Patrick Andrie;

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