YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The World

Germany Is Urged to Ban CIA Agents Accused of Kidnapping

October 13, 2006|Jeffrey Fleishman | Times Staff Writer

BERLIN — Prosecutors in Germany have asked federal authorities to forbid CIA agents suspected of being involved in the alleged kidnapping and five-month imprisonment of a German citizen from entering the country, a German television program reported Thursday.

The request is the newest twist in the case of Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent who was detained in Macedonia in 2003 and ended up in a U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan. Masri said he was a victim of a U.S. program that captures and jails suspected terrorists.

Munich state prosecutor August Stern sent the names and aliases of CIA operatives and contractors to the Federal Criminal Police Office, asking that the agents not be allowed to enter Germany for fear of committing more crimes. Stern has faced increasing pressure from German politicians to file arrest warrants against as many as 13 U.S. intelligence agents. He did not do so Thursday.

"We have passed this personal data to federal authorities to prevent danger," Stern was quoted as saying by the German television show "Panorama."

U.S. Embassy officials in Germany could not be reached for comment.

John B. Bellinger III, a senior legal advisor in the U.S. State Department, who was in Berlin meeting with German officials, declined to comment on the Masri detention.

The case underscores the strained relations between the U.S. and Europe over tactics in the war on terrorism. Last year, Italian authorities issued 26 arrest warrants against CIA operatives and U.S. military personnel allegedly involved in the abduction of Hassan Osama Nasr, an Islamic cleric also known as Abu Omar who was seized on a Milan street in February 2003 and imprisoned in his native Egypt.

A committee of the German Parliament is investigating the Masri affair and whether German intelligence cooperated with the U.S. in transporting and holding suspected militants at secret sites in Europe.

Records show the Boeing 737 that allegedly flew Masri to Baghdad and on to Afghanistan was registered to a CIA front company. Before the plane picked up Masri in Skopje, Macedonia, on Jan. 23, 2004, it was parked at an airport in Majorca, Spain.

"Panorama" recently reported that the agents suspected in the Masri abduction stayed at a luxury hotel on the Spanish island.

The program reported that three of the agents gave the aliases Eric Fain, Kirk James Bird and James Fairing. Some of the agents used their real first names when checking in, reported "Panorama," which also cited a $1,625 hotel food bill and an $81 charge for a massage.

In an interview with The Times last year, Masri said he was beaten, blindfolded, drugged and flown to Afghanistan, where he was interrogated. He also said he believed that German intelligence officials knew of, and perhaps assisted in, his detention.

During his imprisonment, he said, he met several times with a man who called himself Sam. Masri said Sam spoke fluent German and accompanied him on a flight from Afghanistan to Albania, where he was released without charge in May 2004.

Los Angeles Times Articles