Leaked cables reveal US urged Germany not to prosecute CIA officials for rendition

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[JURIST] The Bush administration urged Germany not to prosecute Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] officials involved in the alleged illegal arrest and torture of German citizen Khaled El-Masri [JURIST news archive] under the administration’s extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive], according to a document released Sunday by WikiLeaks [website; JURIST news archive]. The document [text], dated February 2, 2007, is a cable originating from the Berlin Embassy describing a discussion with German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel about potential international arrest warrants dealing with the El-Masri case. The cable says that then-deputy chief of the US mission to Germany, John Koenig, pressured Germany with the intention “not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German Government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.” German prosecutors had obtained arrest warrants on January 31, 2007, for the 13 CIA officials involved but decided not to seek extradition [JURIST reports] later in the year, after the meeting with the US. The leaked document is seen as proof of the diplomatic pressure the US has put on even some of its strongest allies over its handling of terrorism suspects. Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] criticized [statement] the US’s action as a way to shield officials from accountability saying, “[t]he best way to restore our standing in the world, reassert the rule of law and strengthen our democracy is to support, not obstruct, meaningful accountability for torture.”

WikiLeaks is a website which purports to be a not-for-profit media organization that anonymously publishes leaked classified government documents. It has recently come under controversy due to a string of leaked documents including the cable in the El-Masri case. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Defense (DOD) [official websites] said Monday they were conducting criminal investigations [JURIST report] into WikiLeaks over its release of confidential government communications. El-Masri claims that the CIA kidnapped him while he was traveling to Macedonia in 2003 and transported him to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan where he was held for four months. The case has been a controversial issue in both the US and in Europe. In October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] announced that it will review the involvement [JURIST report] of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in El-Masri’s arrest. In May, the Spanish National Court Office of the Prosecutor petitioned judge Ismael Moreno [JURIST report] to issue arrest warrants against the 13 CIA officials allegedly involved. The Prosecutor’s Office argues that the court has jurisdiction to issue the warrants because the agents made a stop in Spanish territory using hidden identities without official Spanish government authorization to do so.

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