CIA ‘Torture’ Lawsuit Thrown Out: Appeal to Be Filled

May 21st, 2006 - by admin

BBC World News & Reuters – 2006-05-21 22:10:02

VIRGINIA (May 18, 2006) — A US court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a German citizen who says he was kidnapped and beaten by the CIA.

Khaled el-Masri aimed to sue former CIA chief George Tenet and other officials for their alleged role in the “extraordinary rendition” programme.

Mr el-Masri says he was picked up in Macedonia in 2003 and flown to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he alleges torture.

The judge did not rule on the truth of the allegations, but said letting the case proceed might endanger security.

Rights group the American Civil Liberties Union brought the case on behalf of Mr el-Masri — who was never charged with any terrorist offences.

Besides Mr Tenet, the case named 10 other CIA employees, as well as three other companies and their employees.

However, the district court judge in Virginia rejected the challenge, saying Mr el-Masri’s “private interests must give way to the national interest in preserving state secrets”.

Lebanese-born Mr el-Masri had demanded compensation and an apology from Mr Tenet and several other CIA figures.

He has alleged he was beaten and injected with drugs after being seized near Macedonia’s border with Albania, before being taken to Afghanistan and held for five months.

‘Exceptional Steps’

In his ruling, Judge TS Ellis stressed that by rejecting Mr el-Masri’s lawsuit he made no judgement on the strength or otherwise of his allegations.

“[The result reached here] is in no way an adjudication of, or comment on, the merit or lack of merit of Mr el-Masri’s complaint,” he said.

“Further, it is also important that nothing in this ruling should be taken as a sign of judicial approval or disapproval of rendition programmes.

“In times of war, our country, chiefly through the executive branch, must often take exceptional steps to thwart the enemy.”

His case has attracted the attention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who raised the issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Ms Rice has admitted that the US has used so-called “extraordinary rendition” — or secret flights — to move suspects across international borders.

But the US has refused to discuss individual cases and insists it does not condone torture.


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German to Fight on after CIA Torture Lawsuit Fails
Mark Trevelyan / Reuters

(May 19 2006) — A German man who says he was abducted and tortured by the CIA will consider taking his case to a higher court after a US district judge dismissed it on national security grounds, his lawyer said on Friday.

Judge T.S. Ellis, in a ruling on Thursday, agreed with US government arguments that moving forward with Khaled el-Masri’s case would risk national security by exposing state secrets about CIA activities vital to the US war on terrorism.

Masri’s lawyer Manfred Gnjidic told Reuters his client was disappointed but added: “We don’t give up that quickly.”

He would now examine if it was possible to take the case — also under investigation by German prosecutors and members of the German and European Parliaments — to a higher US court or an international body such as the World Court in The Hague.

In a case that has sparked fierce criticism of US methods in the “war on terror”, Masri says he was flown by the Central Intelligence Agency from Macedonia to Afghanistan in 2004 and jailed for months as a terrorist suspect before being freed without charge and dumped in Albania.

Washington has declined to comment on his case, although it acknowledges it has secretly transferred some terrorist suspects between countries in a controversial practice known as “extraordinary rendition”.

Human rights groups say rendition and incommunicado detention are a recipe for torture, but Washington says it does not abuse detainees or hand them to countries that do.

Gnjidic said the judge’s decision that US national security took precedence over Masri’s interests effectively granted a license to the CIA to act outside the law.

“The logic is that even when there’s evidence (of abuse), the CIA can simply fall back on state secrecy and can’t be stopped from committing crimes, even on foreign territory, without having to fear any consequences,” he said.

Gnjidic was speaking shortly after the United Nations committee against torture told the United States on Friday it should close any secret prisons abroad and the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba, saying they violated international law.

In Thursday’s ruling, Judge Ellis said his decision was not a comment on whether Masri’s allegations were true or false.

A German foreign ministry spokesman said it had appeared after the judgment that Masri still had a possibility to seek compensation, but declined further comment on the case.

Masri, 42, is suing former CIA boss George Tenet, 10 unnamed CIA agents, three companies he says owned the planes that were used to transfer him, and 10 employees of those companies. He wants damages of at least $75,000 but has said he would consider settling in exchange for an apology from Tenet.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.