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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Incident: el-Masri kidnapped in Macedonia, detained in Afghanistan

According to a description Khaled el-Masri will give the press in one year's time (14 January 2005), on this day el-Masri was detained during a holiday and subsequently rendered for detainment Afghanistan.

While taking a bus trip to Macedonia for a cheap New Year holiday, el-Masri's is called off the bus at the Serbian-Macedonian border. For the next 23 days he claims to have been subject to repeated interrogations about his links to Islamic organisations, and about the mosque in Ulm where he worships.

During this time, he claims to have been offered a "deal" by a Macedonian authority: "We have to say you are a member of al-Qaida ... then we'll put you on a plane and take you back to Germany." He refused.

In 23 days time, he will be handcuffed, blindfolded, put in a car and told he was going to Germany. Instead, he claims to have been taken to Afghanistan, where we was beaten, stripped, have humiliating photographs taken of him, and subject to an intrusive anal search. He will remain for four more months in a filthy cell, subject to tainted water, and repeatedly interrogated by what he believes to be Americans.

After five months of detention, he will be 'released' without charge. Or more accurately, he will be dumped in an unknown country which, after wandering through the mountains and coming across a border patrol, he will discover to be Albania. He will then make his own way back home to Germany. Upon return, he will discover that his wife and family, not knowing what happened to him, have left the country to live with his mother-in-law in Lebanon. They will be reunited some time later.

According to an article on MSNBC, from 23 April 2005, Khaled El-Masri was kept in Afghanistan even after it was learned that he was an innocent man.

  • February: CIA officers in Kabul began to suspect he was the wrong man, and they raised the red flag. They send his passport back to the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va.
  • March: The CIA finish checking his passport and find it was not a fake.
  • mid-April: Officials call a special meeting at the CIA to brief director George Tenet. An officer quotes Tenet as saying, "You've got an innocent guy in the Salt Pit?" Tenet said El-Masri should be released.
  • May: National Security Council Director Condoleezza Rice learns of the mistake and orders El-Masri's immediate release.
  • 2 weeks after the above: El-Masri is still not released. Rice re-orders his release
  • 29 May: El-Masri is freed (date from New York Times article.
For those interested in further commentary (05 Dec 2005), see Katherine and Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings.

filed under: Rendition.


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