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Germany

German Ex-Minister Under Fire Over CIA Abduction

Germany's former interior minister, Otto Schily, is facing pressure by opposition politicians to reveal his knowledge about the abduction of a German national by the US intelligence service.

Schily has been tight-lipped so far

Greens parliamentarian Volker Beck said that Schily, who left office Nov. 22, should tell the legislature what he knew about the abduction.

"We will question the government on this and push for a clarification," Beck said.

According to a report published by The Washington Post -- and contrary to Berlin's claims --the former German government had been informed about at least one case of a CIA abduction of a terror suspect.

A CIA plane that was allegedly used for transporting terror suspects

In May last year, Daniel Coats, the then United States ambassador in Berlin, told Schily that Khaled el-Masri -- a German citizen -- had been wrongfully held by the CIA but would soon be released, according to the report.

El-Masri was abducted by the American intelligence agency in 2003 and spent 5 months in a prison in Afghanistan.

German public prosecutors such as Eberhard Beyer have started to look into the case of Khaled el-Masri, issuing arrest warrants against 22 people allegedly involved in the

abduction.

"These agents were operating on German soil which automatically means they committed their crimes under German jurisdiction," Beyer said. "That is why we've started legal investigations on grounds of coercion and deprivation of liberty rights."

Schily, a Social Democrat, has so far not commented on the case. A spokeswoman for the interior ministry, which is now led by conservative Wolfgang Schäuble, said she could not speak for the previous regime.

Will Rice talk in Berlin?

Gernot Erler

Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler (SPD) said he understood that governments do not want to reveal details about the fight against terror, but added that the public has a right to "at least know what the legal situation was and whether national and international laws were adhered to."

In an interview with public broadcaster RBB, Erler added that expected US officials to inform their German counterparts about allegations regarding secret CIA flights transporting terror suspects across German air space. The United States airbase in Frankfurt allegedly was the hub of clandestine CIA operations, which have triggered a public outcry in Europe.

But Erler said it wasn't clear whether such information would become available during US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Berlin late Monday and Tuesday.

Hadley denies allegations

In an interview for CNN on Sunday, US national security advisor Stephen Hadley gave a first impression of the type of answer Europeans can expect.

"The terrorists threaten all of us," he said. "This is a threat really to the civilized world. We need to cooperate together to deal with this terrorist threat. That cooperation is characterized by three things: One, we comply with US constitution, US laws and US treaty obligations. Secondly, we respect the sovereignty of those countries with whom we are cooperating, and three -- we do not move people around the world so that they can be tortured."

Merkel with Bush in February in Mainz, Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is trying to get German-US relations back on a more friendly footing, has said that she believes the Americans will clear up the case.

"The new German government will do everything in its power to work for close, genuine and trusting relations with the United States," she said. "That's why I'm also fully convinced that the American administration will do everything to dispel European concern and clear up allegations of illegal CIA activities as quickly as possible."

DW.DE