By DALE McFEATTERS
A German court has issued arrest warrants for 13 people described as a “CIA abduction team” for snatching a German citizen of Lebanese descent in Macedonia in 2003 and spiriting him off to Afghanistan where, the abductee says, he was shackled and beaten for five months before his interrogators were satisfied he had no ties to al Qaeda.
Once the 13 — 11 men and two women — are positively identified, the German authorities say they will file criminal charges. The German, Khaled el-Masri, sued the U.S. government in federal court for damages. A district court threw out the case and the decision is being appealed. News accounts say el-Masri’s alleged abduction is the best-documented example of the CIA’s “extraordinary renditions,” wherein subjects are kidnapped in one country and sent to another for interrogation. It is widely believed that this is to get around U.S. prohibitions on torture.
In Italy, prosecutors have charged 25 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force officer — and may charge their own former chief of intelligence — with kidnapping a radical Muslim cleric in Milan and shipping him off to Egypt, where he says he, too, was tortured.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has apologized and offered $8.9 million to Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was detained at New York’s JFK airport for 11 days, in solitary and without access to a lawyer, before being bundled off to Syria, where he says he was tortured until he falsely confessed a connection with al Qaeda. He was held for over 10 months before being allowed to return to Canada.
The Canadians have cleared Arar of any connection with terrorist or criminal organizations, but the United States refuses to explain itself, let alone apologize, and the Department of Homeland Security has refused to remove his name and those of his wife and two children from its terrorist watch list, meaning he is basically barred from flying in the United States.
Germany, Italy and Canada are our allies, nations with a profound respect for the rule of law. Whatever the benefits of such circuslike kidnappings — the one in Italy was said to feature an impressive length of stays in luxury hotels — they are not worth the damage they do to our relations with our friends and to our reputation.
We can only imagine the rage and outcry in Washington if Berlin, Rome or Ottawa did something similar to one of our own citizens.