EX-MINISTER: US PAID EL-MASRI TO BE QUIET
A former German minister said on thursday that the USA gave money to Khaled el-Masri to be quiet about the case involving his arrest in Macedonia.
Otto Schily, interior minister at the time, told a parliamentary committee investigating the case of Khaled el-Masri that he was told about the hush money by Daniel Coats, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany.
"Coats told me it had all been a mistake," Schily said under oath, recalling a conversation he had with Coats at the end of May 2004 about the abduction by the CIA of Masri, a German of Lebanese origin.
"The terrorism theory was not confirmed," Schily said. "They (the Americans)apologized, gave him money and he promised to keep quiet."
El-Masri who is a German of Lebanese origin was while going on vacation to Skopje, arrested by the Macedonian border police, because his name was identical to that of Khalid al-Masri,an alleged mentor to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell who has not been apprehended, and because of suspicion that his German passport was a forgery.
He was held in a motel in Macedonia for over three weeks and questioned about his activities, his associates and the mosque he attended in his hometown Ulm. He was then handed over to the CIA and flown to Afghanistan where he says he was imprisoned, interrogated and tortured, flew him out of Afghanistan and released him at night on a desolate road in Albania, without apology, or funds to return home.
MD: Washington has refused to comment specifically on the Masri affair,
but says it regrets any mistakes it might have made.