KHALED EL-MASRI / Statement / ACLU 6dec2005
31 Jan 2007:
Germany Orders Arrest of 13 CIA Operatives in Kidnapping of Khaled el-Masri
Khaled El-Masri is a German citizen who resides near Neu Ulm, Germany. El-Masri was born in Kuwait in 1963 to Lebanese parents. He moved to Germany in 1985 to escape the Lebanese War. He became a German citizen in 1995, married in 1996 and has five young children. He is a carpenter by trade and prior to his abduction was employed as a car salesman. El-Masri was detained from December 31, 2003 through May 28, 2004 in Macedonia and Afghanistan where he was held in the CIA prison known as the "Salt Pit." Currently El-Masri is unable to find employment.
On December 31, 2003, I boarded a bus in Ulm, Germany for a holiday in Skopje, Macedonia. When the bus crossed the border into Macedonia, Macedonian officials confiscated my passport and detained me for several hours. Eventually, I was transferred to a hotel in Macedonia where I was held for 23 days. I was guarded at all times, the curtains were always drawn, I was never permitted to leave the room, I was threatened with guns, and I was not allowed to contact anyone. At the hotel, I was repeatedly questioned about my activities in Ulm, my associates, my mosque, meetings with people that had never occurred, or associations with people I had never met. I answered all of their questions truthfully, emphatically denying their accusations. After 13 days I went on a hunger strike to protest my confinement.
On January 23, 2004, seven or eight new Macedonian men entered the hotel room and forced me to record a video saying I had been treated well and would soon be flown back to Germany. I was handcuffed, blindfolded, and placed in a car. The car eventually stopped and I heard airplanes. I was taken from the car, and led to a building where I was severely beaten by people's fists and what felt like a thick stick. Someone sliced the clothes off my body, and when I would not remove my underwear, I was beaten again until someone forcibly removed them from me. I was thrown on the floor, my hands were pulled behind me, and someone's boot was placed on my back. Then I felt something firm being forced inside my anus.
I was dragged across the floor and my blindfold was removed. I saw seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks. One of the men placed me in a diaper and a track suit. I was put in a belt with chains that attached to my wrists and ankles, earmuffs were placed over my ears, eye pads over my eyes, and then I was blindfolded and hooded. After being marched to a plane, I was thrown to the floor face down and my legs and arms were spread-eagled and secured to the sides of the plane. I felt two injections, and I was rendered nearly unconscious. At some point, I felt the plane land and take off again. When it landed again, I was unchained and taken off the plane. It felt very warm outside, and so I knew I had not been returned to Germany. I learned later that I was in Afghanistan.
Once off the plane, I was shoved into the back of a vehicle. After a short drive, I was dragged out of the car, pushed roughly into a building, thrown to the floor, and kicked and beaten on the head, the soles of my feet, and the small of my back. I was left in a small, dirty, cold concrete cell. There was no bed and one dirty, military-style blanket and some old, torn clothes bundled into a thin pillow. I was extremely thirsty, but there was only a bottle of putrid water in cell. I was refused fresh water.
That first night I was interrogated by six or eight men dressed in the same black clothing and ski masks, as well as a masked American doctor and a translator. They stripped me of my clothes, photographed me, and took blood and urine samples. I was retuned to my cell, where I would remain in solitary confinement, with no reading or writing materials, and without once being permitted outside to breathe fresh air, for more than four months. Ultimately, I was interrogated three or four times, always by the same man, with others who were dressed in black clothing and ski masks, and always at night. The man who interrogated me threatened me, insulted me, and shoved me. He interrogated me about whether I had taken a trip to Jalalabad using a false passport; whether I had attended Palestinian training camps; and whether I knew September 11 conspirators or other alleged extremists. As in Macedonia, I truthfully denied their accusations. Two men who participated in my interrogations identified themselves as Americans. My requests to meet with a representative of the German government, a lawyer, or to be brought before a court, were repeatedly ignored.
In March, I, along with several other inmates, commenced a hunger strike to protest our confinement without charges. After 27 days without food, I was allowed to meet with two unmasked Americans, one of whom was the prison director and the second an even higher official whom other inmates referred to as “the Boss.” I pleaded with them to either release me or bring me to court, but the American prison director replied that he could not release me without permission from Washington, but said that I should not be detained in the prison. On day 37 of my hunger strike I was dragged into an interrogation room, tied to a chair, and feeding tube was forced through my nose to my stomach. After the force-feeding, I became extremely ill and suffered the worst pain of my life.
Near the beginning of May, I was brought into the interrogation room to meet an American who identified himself as a psychologist. He told me he had traveled from Washington D.C. to check on me, and promised I would soon be released. Soon thereafter, I was interrogated again by a native German speaker named “Sam,” the American prison director and an American translator. I was warned at one point that as a condition of my release, I was never to mention what had happened to me, because the Americans were determined to keep the affair a secret.
On May 28, I was led out of my cell, blindfolded and handcuffed. I was eventually put on a plane and chained to the seat. I was accompanied by Sam and also heard the voices of two or three Americans. Sam informed me that the plane would land in a European country other than Germany, because the Americans did not want to leave clear traces of their involvement in my ordeal, but that I would eventually continue on to Germany. I believed I would be executed rather than returned home.
When the plane landed, I was placed in a car, still blindfolded, and driven up and down mountains for hours. Eventually, I was removed from the car and my blindfold removed. My captors gave me my passport and belongings, sliced off my handcuffs and told me to walk down a dark, deserted road and not to look back. I believed I would be shot in the back and left to die, but when I turned the bend, there were armed men who asked me why I was in Albania and took my passport. The Albanians took me to the airport, and only when the plane took off did I believe I was actually returning to Germany. When I returned I had long hair and beard, and had lost 40 pounds. My wife and children had left our house in Ulm, believing I had left them and was not coming back. Now we are together again in Germany.
I'm filing this lawsuit because I believe in the American system of justice. What happened to me was outside the bounds of any legal framework, and should never be allowed to happen to anyone else. Ultimately, what I would like from this lawsuit is an acknowledgement that the CIA is responsible for what happened to me, an explanation as to why this happened, and an apology.
source: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/extraordinaryrendition/22201res20051206.html 15dec2005
ACLU Files Landmark Lawsuit Challenging
CIA’s “Extraordinary Rendition” of Innocent Man (12/6/2005)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org
Companies that Owned and Operated Airplanes Used in CIA Kidnapping Also Named in Lawsuit
WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the first ever lawsuit against former CIA director George Tenet challenging the CIA’s abduction of a foreign national for detention and interrogation in a secret overseas prison. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen victimized by the CIA’s policy of “extraordinary rendition.”
“Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating him outside the law is contrary to American values,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Our government has acted as if it is above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation.”
The lawsuit charges that George Tenet and other CIA officials violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when they authorized agents to kidnap El-Masri, and that his unlawful abduction and treatment were the direct result of an illegal CIA policy known as “extraordinary rendition.”
The lawsuit also charges that the three corporations that owned and operated the airplane used to transport El-Masri to detention in Afghanistan are legally responsible for assisting in the violation of his civil and human rights. These corporations supplied the aircraft and provided the personnel used in the illicit transportation of El-Masri, knowing that the transfer was illegal, according to the ACLU.
“The CIA’s policy of extraordinary rendition is a clear violation of universal human rights protections,” said Steven Watt, the ACLU’s primary human rights advisor on the case. “Snatching Mr. El-Masri off the street and hiding him away in a secret prison was illegal under American and international law. Keeping him imprisoned after his innocence was established was immoral by any standard.”
According to the ACLU lawsuit, El-Masri, a 42-year-old German citizen and father of five young children, was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia. He was detained incommunicado, beaten, drugged, and transported to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to inhumane conditions and coercive interrogation. El-Masri was forbidden from contacting a lawyer or any member of his family. After several months of confinement in squalid conditions, he was abandoned on a hill in Albania with no explanation, never having been charged with a crime.
According to the ACLU, soon after El-Masri was flown to Afghanistan, CIA officers realized that they had abducted, detained, and interrogated an innocent man. Tenet, former director the CIA, was notified about the mistake, yet El-Masri remained in detention for two more months.
“I am asking the American government to admit its mistakes and to apologize for my treatment,” said El-Masri. “Throughout my time in the prison, I asked to be brought before a court but was refused. Now I am hoping that an American court will say very clearly that what happened to me was illegal and cannot be done to others.”
El-Masri had planned to be present at the press conference announcing the filing of this lawsuit, and to visit Capitol Hill to share his account with congressional aides. However, when his plane landed at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta on Saturday night, he was denied entry to the United States by officials of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. El-Masri was sent back to Germany on the next available flight. U.S. officials have provided no reason for their refusal to admit El-Masri, a German citizen who has never been charged with a crime.
The issue of CIA clandestine prisons is receiving a lot of attention recently in the American as well as international press. Much of this attention has been generated by reports of CIA secret prisons in Eastern Europe and the recent release of logs detailing flights used by the CIA in “extraordinary rendition.”
The lawsuit, El-Masri v. Tenet, will be filed this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
El-Masri is represented by Ann Beeson, Ben Wizner and Melissa Goodman of the ACLU National Legal Department, Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP, Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia, and Victor Glasberg of Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.
- More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/rendition
source: http://www.aclu.org/natsec/emergpowers/22207prs20051206.html 15dec1005