Arrest warrants issued for CIA 'kidnapping team'

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The Independent Online

Munich state prosecutors took the unprecedented step yesterday of issuing warrants for the arrest of 13 suspected CIA agents alleged to have kidnapped and beaten a German national who was abducted and held prisoner in Afghanistan under the extraordinary rendition programme.

Khaled el Masri, a German of Lebanese descent, was bundled into an unmarked bus while on holiday in Macedonia in December 2003 and flown to a US jail in Afghanistan.He was released in May 2004.

Mr Masri alleges that he was beaten and mistreated by US interrogators, even though it was clear he was innocent. He says that on his release he was "dumped like a piece of luggage" in Albania and told by his abductors that they "wanted to hear nothing more" about him.

The US has refused to assist the German authorities over Mr Masri's case. In May last year, a judge dismissed a lawsuit he filed against the CIA, citing national security considerations.

One of the German warrants was said to have been issued against the pilot of a Boeing aircraft used to fly Mr Masri to Afghanistan; the others were issued against individuals identified only by CIA codenames.

If the warrants lead to a trial, it would be the first criminal prosecution over America's renditions programme. But German warrants are not valid in the US.

* A judge has ordered Spain's state intelligence agency to declassify any documents it has about secret CIA flights carrying terrorism suspects. Ismael Moreno issued the order as part of an investigation on flights landing in Mallorca.

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