Long arm of secret agents reaches into French supermarket

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The Independent Online

The actions of Mongolian secret agents agents operating from a McDonald's car park in the northern French city of Le Havre have left a sick man languishing in a Mongolian jail and prompted Amnesty International to launch an "urgent action'' campaign to save his life.

Damiran Enkhbat, 43, was abducted from the car park in mysterious circumstances last May and taken by force to Mongolia, where he was jailed. Enkhbat, 43, had been staying in a one-star hotel in Caen, Normandy, where he had applied for refugee status under a false name. The hotel owner last saw him leaving for a meeting on 13 May last year.

It is not clear whom Enkhbat thought he was going to meet at 2.30pm in the car park, but four Mongolian secret agents knew he was coming. Witnesses told the local Le Havre-Presse newspaper that the four men beat Enkhbat, pulled his hair and pushed him into a car.

German police believe he was beaten with electric batons, drugged and driven, via Belgium, to Berlin. On 18 May, 2003, five men, including Enkhbat, boarded a Mongolian Airlines flight from there to the country's capital, Ulan Bator.

Since then, Amnesty believes that Enkhbat - who is accused of knifing to death the Mongolian infrastructure minister, Zorig Sanjasuuren, in October 1998 - has been imprisoned at Abdarant, 90 miles from Ulan-Bator. The human rights group says he is being denied treatment for a damaged liver and pancreas.

In London, Amnesty International's East Asia research assistant Hilary Francis said the human rights group was not concerned with Enkhbat's criminal record, although he does have one. "What worries us is the way he was abducted and the fact that he is seriously ill and is being denied access to a lawyer,'' she said.

No one has been convicted of the murder of Mr Sanjasuuren, who was known for speaking out in favour of democracy, and Enkhbat has told his lawyer the authorities have tried to force him to confess to the killing. He also claims that after his abduction he was tortured at the headquarters of the Mongolian General Intelligence Agency. Officers there allegedly shone bright lights into his eyes and repeatedly cocked and fired a handgun.

The French foreign ministry said no application had been made for Enkhbat's extradition from France. However, the French secret services had been aware of his presence after international arrest warrant was issued for him in Germany.

Enkhbat is serving out a 12-year sentence for assault. It was handed down before he left Mongolia and allegedly relaxed in 1998 due to his poor health. The Mongolian authorities now say the hospital reports used to justify his release were forged.