German sues CIA over torture

German national Khaled al-Masri is suing former CIA Director George Tenet, 10 “John Doe” CIA employees and three private aviation companies, contending he was held illegally in Afghanistan for four months in 2004 and tortured as part of the CIA’s “rendition” program for terror suspects.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing al-Masri, who was detained by the CIA in a case of mistaken identity. The attorneys were to argue the case Friday before a federal judge in Alexandria, Va.

The ACLU and other civil rights groups have criticized the program, in which terror suspects are captured and taken to foreign countries for interrogation. The CIA has never revealed its scope.

Al-Masri said he was taken into custody after being mistaken for an associate of the Sept. 11 hijackers. He said Macedonian authorities arrested him when he crossed the border on New Year’s Eve 2003 and turned him over to the CIA after three weeks.

He said he was then flown to Afghanistan where he was “dragged off the plane and thrown into the trunk of a car” and beaten by his captors. He was held at a CIA-run facility known as the “Salt Pit,” an abandoned brick factory north of the Kabul business district used for detention of high-level terror suspects.

During his captivity in Afghanistan, al-Masri said, he complained that the water was unfit to drink.

“That’s not your problem; that’s somebody else’s problem,” al-Masri said he was told by an American he said seemed to be a doctor.

Al-Masri said that when he became ill, “they didn’t pay any attention.” He said he went on a hunger strike that ended after 37 days when his captors force-fed him. He said he had lost more than 60 pounds.

After Tenet was notified that al-Masri’s captivity was a case of mistaken identity, he was held for two more months after his passport was found to be valid, his lawsuit alleges.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other State Department officials have declined to address the al-Masri case. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the United States has acknowledged making a mistake in his arrest.

The case will be heard by Judge T.S. Ellis III, an appointee of President Reagan.

© 2006 The Associated Press