The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings, Torture and Big Money
June 22nd, 2006 - Witness in CIA Inquiry Told Germans of Missing Man
By Mark Trevelyan
Thursday, June 22, 2006; 2:07 PM
Berlin - New evidence emerged on Thursday that German authorities may have known in early 2004 of the disappearance of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who says he was kidnapped and tortured by the CIA.
Wolf-Dietrich Mengel, a telecoms manager who was working in Macedonia at the time, said he telephoned the German embassy there in January 2004 to say he had heard of the arrest of a German citizen in the Balkan country.
"I phoned the German embassy and was told 'we know that'," Mengel told a German parliamentary inquiry into the role of the security services in the war on terrorism and invasion of Iraq.
He said he learned of the arrest through a fellow employee at Macedonia Telecom, who had heard of it from police sources, although Mengel did not know who had been detained and why.
The testimony was significant because it challenged the German government's insistence that it learned of Masri's abduction only at the end of May 2004.
Germany denies being complicit in the affair, or failing to take action to protect one of its nationals.
The Masri case was one of those highlighted this month in a Council of Europe report which said Germany was one of more than a dozen European countries that colluded in secret international transfers of terrorist suspects by the United States.
Masri's is among the best known examples of the alleged transfers, known as 'renditions', which human rights groups say may lead to abuse and torture.
Masri himself testified later on Thursday to the inquiry and was questioned in detail about his account: that he was handed over in Macedonia to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, flown to Afghanistan and interrogated in jail for four months before being returned to Europe and dumped in Albania.
He repeated his conviction that a man named "Sam," who visited him several times toward the end of his Afghan prison stay, was a German official.
"Sam, from his accent, was definitely German," he said, adding that he had detailed knowledge about Masri's local mosque in the German town of Neu Ulm.
Masri at one point wiped tears from his eyes and asked for a break in questioning as he recalled how Sam had told him not to be frightened when he returned to Germany - a reference to the fact that his wife and children had left the family home, believing he had abandoned them. They have since been reunited.
Opposition lawmakers, who forced the parliamentary inquiry against government wishes, see Sam's true identity, which has yet to be established, as a key to uncovering whether Germany colluded in Masri's abduction.
They also want to know if German security officials were the source of detailed information on Masri, his contacts and his financial affairs which was used by Macedonian and U.S. officials in their interrogations.
© 2006 Reuters