U.S. sponsors kidnapping and torture

This is as disturbing a story as that of Maher Arar

Our government should not be allowed to conduct illegal kidnappings and torture on anyone, innocent or guilty. There are better ways of getting information that don't put U.S. travelers at risk. I hope that no Republican-GWB supporter is ever abducted and interrogated by some Islamic fundamentalist organization, but if it does happen, this is the precedent.

German's Claim of Kidnapping Brings Investigation of U.S. Link:

A German citizen born in Lebanon alleges that he was shackled, abused and accused of having ties to Al Qaeda while he was held by Americans in a prison in Afghanistan.

It was the first day of what Mr. Masri said would become five months in captivity. In an interview, he said that after being kidnapped by the Macedonian authorities at the border, he was turned over to officials he believed were from the United States. He said they flew him to a prison in Afghanistan, where he said he was shackled, beaten repeatedly, photographed nude, injected with drugs and questioned by interrogators about what they insisted were his ties to Al Qaeda.

He was released without ever being charged with a crime. The German police and prosecutors have been investigating Mr. Masri's allegations since he reported the matter to them last June, two weeks after his return to Germany.

Martin Hofmann, a senior national prosecutor in Munich who handles terrorism cases and is in charge of the Masri investigation, and another official, a senior organized crime investigator in southern Germany, say they believe Mr. Masri's story. They said investigators interviewed him for 17 hours over two days, that his story was very detailed and that he recounted it consistently. In addition, the officials said they had verified specific elements of the case, including that Mr. Masri was forced off the bus at the border...

more horrific description if the nyt goes behind archive walls.....

After three and a half weeks, Mr. Masri said he was told that he could return to Germany. The Macedonians took a statement from him on videotape to show he was in good health when he left their country, he said. Afterward, Mr. Masri said, he was permitted to leave the motel, but a few steps down the road, a pickup truck pulled up next to him, and several men grabbed him.

Mr. Masri said that a hood was put over his head but that he believed he was driven to the airport because he could hear the roar of planes. He said he was taken to a room and beaten. He said his clothes were cut off with knives, and he heard the sounds of cameras taking pictures. "After I was naked they took off my mask so I could see, and all the people were in black clothes and black masks," he said. "There were seven or eight people."

Mr. Masri said a couple of men put him in a blue warm-up suit, handcuffed him and tied his hands to his belt, put plugs in his ears and blindfolded him. He said he was put on a plane, where he was forced to lie on the floor. Someone injected his arm, he said, and he fell into a deep sleep.

After an unknown number of hours, he said, he awoke to find that the plane had landed. He said he was taken to a building and imprisoned in a tiny, cold cell. "Everything was dirty - a dirty blanket, dirty water, like from a fish aquarium," he said.

On the walls in his cell were words written in Arabic and what he believed was Farsi. Mr. Masri said that his captors and fellow prisoners told him he was in Kabul, Afghanistan.

That first evening in prison, Mr. Masri said, a man he assumed was a doctor, wearing a thin black mask, came to his cell to take a vial of blood. He said he believed that the doctor was American because he spoke English. Mr. Masri said he was repeatedly punched in the head and neck by several guards who accompanied the doctor. He also said he was forced to run up and down stairs with his arms shackled behind his back.

The following morning, Mr. Masri said, an interrogator walked into his cell and, in a thick Lebanese accent, began shouting at him. "He told me, 'Where you are right now there is no law, no rights, no one knows you are here, and no one cares about you.' "

Mr. Masri said the man had a stack of documents and told him they knew "everything" about him, including that he was an associate of Mohamed Atta, one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is believed to have helped the hijackers. They also accused him of being a senior Qaeda operative who was trained in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, he said. "I denied everything - I kept saying, 'No, no, no.' "

His lawyer, Mr. Gnjidic, said he thought that his client had been confused with the Sept. 11 suspect Khalid al-Masri, because that man is believed by American authorities to have had contact with Mr. bin al-Shibh and Mr. Atta and to have been partly responsible for directing them to a Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. It was there that the two men met Osama bin Laden, who enlisted them for the Sept. 11 mission.

More weeks went by, and Mr. Masri said he then met a man who presented himself as a top lieutenant at the prison. He believes that man was also an American, based on his accent.

"They asked me about Ulm, how many people go to the mosque, how often do they pray," he said. "I told them. When I asked why I was there, I never got an answer."

A Hunger Strike

In March, Mr. Masri said he began a hunger strike. On the 35th day, he said an Afghan prison guard told him, "The Americans don't care if you live or die."

Two days later, he said, he was beaten again and forcibly fed liquid through a tube shoved down his throat.

Mr. Masri said he then ended his hunger strike. He said he was getting to know his fellow prisoners - there were two Pakistani brothers and a man from Tanzania who had been there for several months. He also said there was a Pakistani man who had been there nearly two years.

"I'm sure those men will take revenge, after what was done to them," Mr. Masri said. "Some said to me - we hope to get out of here and then have the power to make something happen against the Americans."

Weeks went by. In May, Mr. Masri said he met a man he believed was German and who was introduced as "Sam." The man posed the same series of questions - mostly about any dealings he may have had with Mr. Atta and Mr. bin al-Shibh. "He was friendly," Mr. Masri said. "So I said, 'Can you please tell me if my family knows where I am?' And the German said, 'No, they don't know.' "

The German authorities said they were unable to confirm Mr. Masri's account of a German agent.

The Return Home

A week later, Mr. Masri said, he was blindfolded, taken to the airport and put on a flight, and then placed on a bus and driven for six or seven hours. His blindfold was removed, and a man told him to walk down a deserted, winding mountain road, he said. "I had the feeling after a few steps, they'd shoot me in the back."

He walked around the bend and came upon a border crossing, where three men in uniforms waited for him, he said. Mr. Masri said he told one of the men about his five months in captivity. "The man was laughing at me," he said. "He said: 'Don't tell that story to anyone because no one will believe it. Everyone will laugh.' "

Mr. Masri asked where they were; the man said in northern Albania, near the Macedonian border. The border officer handed Mr. Masri a plastic box containing the belongings that were taken from him on the first day of his captivity, including his passport and cash, he said. The man told him he was free to go, and his passport was stamped by the nation of Albania, on May 29, 2004.

From there, he bought an airplane ticket and flew to Frankfurt. Once in Germany, Mr. Masri said he returned to his hometown, Ulm, but his wife and four sons, ages 2 to 6, were not at home. "I feared the worst - I feared something happened to my family," he said. Four days later, he found them at his wife's mother's home in Lebanon.

In an interview, Mr. Masri's wife, Aischa, said she had moved back to Lebanon after not hearing from her husband. She said she began thinking, "Maybe he has gone to marry another woman."

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 9, 2005 10:48 AM.

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