Thursday, December 9, 2010

Officials Pressed Germans on Kidnapping by C.I.A.

American officials exerted sustained pressure on Germany not to enforce arrest warrants against Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in the 2003 kidnapping of a German citizen mistakenly believed to be a terrorist, diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks show.

John M. Koenig, the American deputy chief of mission in Berlin, issued a pointed warning in February 2007 urging that Germany “weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.” in the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent. Mr. Masri said he was held in a secret United States prison in Afghanistan and tortured before his captors acknowledged their mistake and let him go.

The United States’ concern over the Masri case was detailed in cables sent from the United States Embassies in Germany, Spain and Macedonia in 2006 and 2007.

The cables indicated what was long suspected by German opposition leaders who led a parliamentary inquiry into the case: intense political pressure from Washington was the reason that Germany never pressed for the arrest and extradition of 13 operatives believed to be from the C.I.A. who were ultimately charged in indictments issued in Spain and in Munich.

“I am not surprised by this,” said Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of the Green bloc in Parliament who then sat on the legislative investigative committee. “It was confirmed once again that the U.S. government kept the German government” from seeking the arrest of the agents.

In one cable, written before Mr. Koenig’s warning to Germany’s deputy national security adviser, the embassy in Berlin reported that diplomatic officials had “continued to stress with German counterparts the potential negative implications for our bilateral relationship, and in particular for our counter-terrorism cooperation, if further steps are taken to seek the arrest or extradition of U.S. citizens/officials.”

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