May 19, 2007

The Selective Practice of Granting Asylum

The Khaled El-Masri rendition case has been the focus of heavy media attention not just in Germany, but internationally as well since the story of his alleged abduction, long imprisonment and torturing by American secret service men on the grounds of a mixup of his name with that of a leading Al-Quaida member, first broke in 2005. SPIEGEL ONLINE International published the following news report on January 14 of that year:
"Khaled el-Masri just wanted to go on a short holiday to Skopje, he says. He needed some time alone -- away from the clamor of his four young sons. A couple of days. But it turned out to be a longer trip than he had planned. And he didn't end up seeing much of the Macedonian capital, either. Rather, he spent months locked up in a dirty prison cell in Afghanistan.

El-Masri, a 41-year-old German citizen who lives in the western German city of Ulm, was kidnapped on the Macedonian border by secret service personnel -- he doesn't know what country they were from -- on Dec. 31, 2003. From there, he was brought to a hotel in Skopje where he was not allowed to leave his room for three weeks. His captors began interrogating him there: "They offered me a deal," he told the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "I should sign a confession that I was a member of al-Qaida and then they would let me go."
After five months, the intelligence agencies reportedly twigged that they held the wrong man and released El-Masri, allegedly offering him money to remain silent. Media sources indicated that US intelligence contacted German authorities after apprehending El-Masri, triggering off a major political controversy at top level in Germany. El-Masri also claimed he was interrogated by a German who identified himself as "Sam" while in Afghanistan. All speculatoons on the identity of "Sam", however, remained without results. According to The International Herald Tribune Europe:
German officials said they knew nothing about the man's abduction and have repeatedly pressed Washington for information about the case, which has sparked outrage here. At a meeting in Berlin in December, Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded an explanation of the incident from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

But on Monday in nearby New Ulm, the police and prosecutors opened an investigation into whether Germany served as a silent partner of the United States in the abduction of the man, Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Arab descent who was detained on New Year's Eve 2003 in Macedonia and flown to the Kabul prison.

The action came after a two-and-a- half-hour meeting at police headquarters in which Masri told the police that he was "90 percent" certain that a senior German police official was the interrogator who had visited him three times inside the prison in Kabul but had identified himself only as "Sam."
In broadening its criminal inquiry into the abduction of Masri to the activities of its own government, the prosecutors are trying to determine whether German officials worked secretly with the United States in a practice known as "rendition," in which terror suspects are sent to be interrogated in other countries where torture is commonly used.
Since then, El-Masri has become an international cause célèbre and romping ground for all those whi are into all things good and noble all the time. His case is the subject of a major parliamentary investigation in Germany about to which extent the then government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had knowledge of the kidnapping. In America, his case has been frequently cited by human rights activists in their campaign to stop the practice of renditions.

However, the question remained whether El-Masri was really just the innocent victim of a freak muddle or whether he HAD connections to extreme Islam. The German newsmagazine Focus reported in February 2006 that el-Masri had been the commando chief of a radical movement in Lebanon according to information from German intelligence, Focus claimed to have gotten from the 273 comprehensive secret report of the German security authorities for the parliamentary oversight committee (PKG). According to it, El-Masri was a leading member of the radical movement Al-Tawhid in the Lebanon of the early Eighties. The organisation, so the report, had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and fought the dissident Alavite sect in Lebanon. The area of operations for El-Masri and his gang was Tripoli, so the report stated.

Records of El Masri's life between emigration to Germany and his abduction are curiously scant. He came to Germany in 1985 as a political asylum seeker and applied for a German passport, which he got in 1995. Then, in 2003, he suddenly decides to take a break from his stressful family and to have a vacation in Macedonia, surely THE holiday hotspot in a case like that.

The rest is history.

Last Thursday, the story got a follow-up, almost as enigmatic as the first part. Khaled el-Masri went berserk in an Ulm supermarket and set fire to it, causing roughly half a million Euros of damage. Prior to the arson attack el-Masri had spat in the face of one of the store's female staff after the warranty issue wasn't quite clear and she had refused to take back an iPod he had bought there. His lawyer Manfred Gnjidic explained why: "This is an example of what happens to torture victims when they are left on their own and not given any proper treatment." The lawyer stated that he had asked doctors and appealed to the government for help in providing the kind of psychiatric care his client badly needed, but nobody had offered to take him. That is not exactly true, because since his release from the CIA prison in Afghanistan in May 2004, el-Masri HAS received treatment at a "centre for torture victims", a treatment that is not covered by health insurance.

German state prosecutors committed el-Masri to a psychiatric institution for an indefinite period immediately after the arson attack. Mr Gnjidic said yesterday that in common with other victims of the CIA's controversial "renditions" programme, Masri had been severely traumatised by his experiences and had been unable to recover. "He had to become a criminal to get the therapy to which he was entitled as a victims for years now", his lawyer stated.

Prosecutors said that Masri is also facing charges for attacking an instructor who had been teaching him how to drive lorries. It transpired that el-Masri had lost his temper after the instructor didn't take kindly to the fact that he failed to attend his lessons.

Liza sez: If you have problems with your health insurance, there's always a supermarket next door.

Jump cut: While I am writing this, a Google search for "abschiebehaft selbstmord" (custody pending deportation and suicide) clocks up 37.200 hits The first 20 hits refer to:
  • • No country or name specified
  • • A Morrocan
  • • Altankov Dagwasoundel - Mongolian
  • • F.O. - Turkish Kurd
  • • Not specified
  • • Not specified
  • • Aamir Ageeb from Sudan (died through police brutality, no suicide)
  • • Not specified
  • • Arumugasamy Subramaniam - Tamil*
  • • Cemal Altun -- Turkish Kurd
  • • The countries Usbekistan and Turkmenistan,
  • • Arumugasamy Subramaniam - Tamil*
  • • Mehmet Emin Tirok - Turkish Kurd
  • • Not specified
  • • Aamir Omer Mohamed Ahmed Ageeb from Sudan (see above)
  • • Naimah H. from Algeria
  • • Juri Palienko - Ukrainian
  • • Not specified
  • • Not specified
  • • Marin Mogos - Romanian.
Do you see a pattern? I do. There is not a single case from a Middle Eastern country. While we are throwing shelter, a lifelihood, social security, training, compassion and care after hordes of thugs from the Middle East, this sort of faux humanity ends exactly at the point where Israel (or America, for that) can't be blamed for their misery.

Where do I have to apply for membership in your "Hooray-Israel-narrow-gauge-thinkers" club, Liza?

*See my blog entry Dead Children without Importance.