Human rights court sides with German man held as terror suspect
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LONDON — The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled in favor of a German man who alleged he was kidnapped and tortured in 2003 as part of a U.S. rendition program involving the secret abductions and transfers of prisoners.
Khaled Masri, a Lebanese-born German citizen, said he was mistaken for a terrorism suspect associated with the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers. He was arrested in Macedonia and held by the CIA for months in a prison in Afghanistan. Masri was released in Albania in May 2004.
The court, based in Strasbourg, France, awarded Masri $78,500 in damages from the Macedonian government for the kidnapping and violation of his human rights by use of “torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.” The judgment also condemned Macedonia for handing Masri to U.S. authorities without a court order.
Macedonia was responsible for his alleged maltreatment at an airport in Skopje, the capital, where he was “severely beaten, sodomized, shackled, hooded and subjected to total sensory deprivation,” the court ruled.
A complaint against the CIA was filed in 2005 but later dismissed, the court ruling said.
Masri’s case is among several filed by terror suspects in Europe claiming they were victims of extraordinary rendition flights, tortured and released with no explanation or offer of damages.
“Today’s ruling on the CIA’s detention and rendition of German national Khaled El-Masri is a historic moment and a milestone in the fight against impunity because for the first time it holds a European state accountable for its involvement in the secret U.S.-led programs,” said a statement from Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists.
In a separate case Thursday, a former Libyan dissident, Sami al-Saadi, won a settlement of $3.5 million from the British government related to his abduction and imprisonment in 2004. Al-Saadi was suing the British security service MI6 for damages after his abduction from Hong Kong to Libya and years of imprisonment and torture under the regime of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Several other cases were already settled with the British government.
A statement from the Foreign Office Thursday said, “We can confirm that the government and the other defendants have reached a settlement with the claimants. There has been no admission of liability and no finding by any court of liability.”
(Stobart is a news assistant in the Los Angeles Times’ London bureau.)
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