German Court Orders Arrests in Rendition Case

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A German court issues arrest warrants for 13 people who are believed to be CIA agents or contract employees. Those named were allegedly involved in kidnapping a German citizen three years ago and taking him against his will to Afghanistan for questioning.

It's the second case confronting the CIA's practice of extraordinary rendition to have reached this level in Europe. A judge in Italy is considering whether to indict 26 Americans accused of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric.

It's not every day that a court in a close U.S. ally issues arrest warrants for CIA agents. But in the Munich office handling this case, senior prosecutor August Stern said what's happening is all very routine.

"If you suspect someone of a crime and you don't know where this person lives," Stern said in German, "you request an arrest warrant, and then you announce this arrest warrant, it a normal proceeding."

The warrants are valid worldwide, Stern says. Prosecutors aren't yet sure if the names on them are real names or aliases. As far as where the people are, a German television program says that most of them are in North Carolina.

Those named on the arrest warrants are charged with kidnapping and causing grievous bodily harm to Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent. He was picked up in Macedonia in late December 2003 and taken to a prison in Afghanistan, where he was held for nearly five months. Then he was dropped off in Albania to find his way home.

El-Masri's case is also the subject of a German parliamentary inquiry into what the previous German government, led by Gerhard Schroeder, knew about the rendition.

As for El-Masri himself, he is unemployed, says his lawyer. He also has a case pending in U.S. federal court. His lawyers say he's mostly looking for an apology and explanation.



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