Germany knew about rendition of one of its citizens, inquiry told

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The Independent Online

German authorities may have been aware of the disappearance of Khaled El-Masri, the Lebanese-born national who says he was kidnapped in 2003 and tortured by the CIA.

A parliamentary inquiry was told that the German embassy said they were aware of Mr El-Masri's arrest, which he says took place at the Serbian-Macedonian border in December 2003, after which he was abducted, flown to Afghanistan and tortured.

Wolf-Dietrich Mengel, a telecoms manager who was working in Macedonia, said he telephoned the German embassy in January 2004 to say he had heard of the arrest of a German citizen. "I phoned the German embassy and was told, 'we know that'," he told the inquiry. German authorities have insisted the government learned of the case only after Mr El-Masri's release in Albania in May 2004.

Yesterday, Mr El-Masri told the inquiry he was interrogated by a fluent German speaker who identified himself only as 'Sam'.

He said: "From his appearance, from his accent, 'Sam' was most certainly German. I would say he has a northern German accent," adding that he had detailed knowledge about his local mosque in the German town of Neu Ulm. "Sam's" identity is believed to be crucial in uncovering whether Germany colluded in Mr El-Masri's abduction.

When Mr el-Masri asked "Sam" whether he worked for German authorities and whether the Germans knew where he was, he only replied: "I cannot answer the question." He recalled how "Sam" told him not to be frightened when he returned to Germany, referring to the fact his wife and children had left the family home, believing Mr El-Masri had abandoned them. They have since been reunited.

Mr el-Masri hastold of how he was injected and hooded during the holiday in Macedonia and imprisoned in Afghanistan: "I was there for five months, regularly beaten and told to confess I was a terrorist. Then one day I was dragged from my cell, put inside a closed truck and driven to a plane," he has said.

"After the flight, I was taken off. An American told me that a mistake had been made: I was not a terrorist."