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Human Rights

Complainant takes on Republic of Macedonia

The European Court for Human Rights has begun hearing a complaint against the Republic of Macedonia. A German man claims police officers held him for 23 days in a hotel in Skopje in 2003 during a US interrogation sweep.

The plaintiff, Khaled el-Masri, is a German man of Lebanese origin who accuses Macedonian officials of multiple violations of safeguards under Europe's Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

El-Masri claims that Macedonian police officers arrested him in 2003 while he was visiting Macedonia on vacation, and then held him for several weeks in a hotel in the capital, Skopje. There, he says, they questioned him under degrading conditions while alleging he had links to the Islamist terror network Al Qaeda, before handing him over to CIA agents.

El-Masri claims he was wrongly targeted in what became known as the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program that followed the 9/11 terror attacks on New York in 2001. Suspects were transported to secret prisons in third countries for interrogation.

Khaled el-Masri in a courtroom in 2010

Khaled el-Masri claims he was abused by Macedonian police

The now 47-year-old says he was then blindfolded and flown from Macedonia to Afghanistan, where he was held in a secret prison for over four months while interrogations continued under torture. He was finally released when US official realized they had mistaken his identity.

El-Masri's lawyers hold the Macedonian state responsible for the actions of its officials. Over the past seven years El-Masri has brought charges against the CIA and the German Justice Ministry, in an attempt to bring his abductors to justice and receive compensation.

At Wednesday's hearing in Strasbourg, the 17 judges of the court's Grand Chamber began hearing submissions from lawyers for el-Masri and the Macedonian government. The complainant was not present.

The court's judgement is not expected for several months.

rg/ipj (AFPD, DAPD)