ALEXANDRIA, VA—A U.S. District Court judge in Alexandria today heard arguments in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the CIA’s abduction of a foreign national for detention and interrogation in a secret overseas prison. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen victimized by the CIA’s policy of “extraordinary rendition.”
The federal government asked the court to dismiss the case on grounds that the proceedings would jeopardize national security and reveal state secrets. Judge T.S. Ellis III took the case under advisement and said he would soon issue a ruling.
The lawsuit charges that George Tenet and other CIA officials violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when they authorized agents to kidnap El-Masri, and that his unlawful abduction and treatment were the direct result of an illegal CIA policy known as “extraordinary rendition.” El-Masri was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia. He was detained incommunicado, beaten, drugged, and transported to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to inhumane conditions and coercive interrogation. El-Masri was forbidden from contacting a lawyer or any member of his family. After several months of confinement in squalid conditions, he was abandoned on a hill in Albania with no explanation, never having been charged with a crime.
“Extraordinary rendition, in both principle and practice, conflicts with American law and our core societal values," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. "In Mr. El-Masri's case, a completely innocent man was swept off the street, imprisoned and interrogated under extremely hostile conditions. After the CIA finally discovered its mistake, it detained El-Masri for two additional months then simply dropped him back into society as if nothing had happened. How does the rule of law square with this kind of action, and who will be the next innocent victim?"
Mr. El-Masri was not present at today’s proceedings. He had attempted to enter the United States in December when the ACLU first announced the lawsuit, but was denied entry by officials of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta, Georgia and sent back to Germany on the next available flight.
“I am asking the American government to admit its mistakes and to apologize for my treatment,” said El-Masri. “Throughout my time in the prison, I asked to be brought before a court but was refused. Now I am hoping that an American court will say very clearly that what happened to me was illegal and cannot be done to others.”
El-Masri is represented by Ann Beeson, Ben Wizner, and Melissa Goodman of the ACLU National Legal Department, Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP, Rebecca K. Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia, and Victor Glasberg of Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.
More information is available online at: www.acluva.org/docket/elmasri.html
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director (office) 804/644-8022