Saturday, March 3, 2007

US court throws out CIA torture case

Fri Mar 2, 6:57 PM ET

A US federal appeals court on Friday upheld a refusal to hear the case of a Lebanese-born German man who says he was tortured by the CIA, citing national security reasons.

Khaled el-Masri claims was detained by the CIA for several months in 2004 on suspicion of links to terrorism.

Masri, 43, filed suit in December 2005 saying he had been snatched while on a trip in Macedonia, taken to Afghanistan, jailed, beaten and harassed before being set free without charge after five months.

He demanded an explanation and an apology from the United States for his detention, as well as 75,000 dollars in damages.

The US government had urged the court to reject the appeal saying that for national security reasons it could not confirm or deny any of the allegations because they were related to the activities of the CIA.

The court said that to make his case, el-Masri "would be obliged to produce admissible evidence not only that he was detained and interrogated, but that the defendants were involved in his detention and interrogation in a manner that renders them personally liable to him.

"Such a showing could be made only with evidence that exposes how the CIA organizes, staffs and supervises its most sensitive intelligence operations.

"The defendants could not properly defend themselves without using privileged evidence," the decision said.

American Civil Liberties Union director Anthony Romero said the court was wrong.

"Regrettably, today's decision allows CIA officials to disregard the law with impunity by making it virtually impossible to challenge their actions in court," he said in a statement.

"The state secrets doctrine has become a shield that covers even the most blatant abuses of power," he said.

Masri has also taken his case to the German courts and a court in southern Munich in January ordered the arrest of 13 people, thought to be CIA agents, in connection with his alleged kidnapping.

His is one of the most high-profile cases of the suspected "extraordinary renditions" by the CIA -- flying terror suspects through European states to detention in third countries where they risk being tortured.

After meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in December 2005, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Masri's case "was accepted as a mistake by the US government," but US officials later suggested her remark was the result of a misunderstanding.

Reports have indicated that US agents confused Masri with a terror suspect with a similar name who was linked to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

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