Germany seeks 13 over CIA 'kidnap'


Jan 31, 2007

MUNICH, Germany (CNN) -- Arrest warrants have been issued for 13 suspected CIA agents in connection with the alleged kidnapping of a German citizen of Lebanese descent in Afghanistan.

The arrest warrants list charges of kidnapping and severe battery, the Munich state prosecutor's office said Wednesday.

All the names on the warrants are aliases, but the office told CNN they are believed to be CIA operatives.

Khaled El-Masri said he was kidnapped in late 2003 while on holiday in Macedonia. In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit, he said after having been interrogated in Macedonia for several days, he was flown to Afghanistan where he was held in a secret prison for several months and severely beaten in interrogation sessions.

El-Masri contends he was dumped five months later along the side of a road in Albania without explanation from those who held him.

The 13 suspects are believed to be the crew of the plane that flew El-Masri to Afghanistan, including the two pilots, the Munich state prosecutor told CNN.

German authorities obtained information from the Spanish police and the state prosecutor in Milan, Italy -- which eventually led to the arrest warrants being filed.

The chances of the suspects actually standing trial in Germany are slim as German arrest warrants are not binding in the United States.

If, however, any of the suspects should enter a European country, they would be arrested immediately, the Munich state prosecutor's office said.

In his interview with Die Zeit, El-Masri said he tried to travel to the United States to file a lawsuit there but was not allowed to enter the country.

The case has also led to a German parliamentary investigation into when the government under German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was informed about the kidnapping.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials have declined to comment on the case.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the United States has acknowledged making a mistake with El-Masri, The Associated Press reported.

In a separate case, Italian authorities are seeking the arrest of 26 Americans, all but one believed to be CIA agents, over the 2003 kidnapping in Milan of Egyptian cleric and terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.