The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Khaled El-Masriâ€TMs Ordeal

by Catherine Komp

Excerpts from a harrowing account of rendition and secret imprisonment.

This sidebar is associated with a full-length news article, German sues CIA, Corporations for Rendition, Torture.

After Khaled El-Masri was abducted in Macedonia and guarded by armed men for 23 days in a hotel room – reportedly without access to a translator, attorney, or German consular official – his captors began the process of "rendering" him to another country. His attorneys believe he was taken to a CIA-run detention center near Kabul, Afghanistan known as the "Salt Pit." The following excerpt from El-Masri’s legal documents describes this transfer:

Email to a Friend
Print-friendly Version
Add to My Morning Paper

On January 23, 2004, seven or eight Macedonian men dressed in civilian clothes whom Mr. El-Masri had not seen before entered the hotel room. The men recorded a 15-minute video of Mr. El-Masri. They instructed him to say that he had been treated well, had not been harmed in any way, and would shortly to be flown back to Germany. The men then handcuffed and blindfolded him and placed him in a car.

After a drive of approximately one hour, the car came to a halt, and Mr. El-Masri could hear the sound of airplanes. He was removed from the vehicle, still handcuffed and blindfolded, and was led to a building. Inside, he was told that he would be medically examined. Instead, he was beaten severely from all sides with fists and what felt like a thick stick. His clothes were sliced from his body with scissors or a knife, leaving him in his underwear. He was told to remove his underwear and he refused. He was beaten again, and his underwear was forcibly removed. He heard the sound of pictures being taken. He was thrown to the floor. His hands were pulled back and a boot was placed on his back. He then felt a firm object being forced into his anus.

Mr. El-Masri was pulled from the floor and dragged to a corner of the room. His blindfold was removed. A flash went off and temporarily blinded him. When he recovered his sight, he saw seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks. One of the men placed him in a diaper. He was then dressed in a dark blue short-sleeved track suit, and placed in a belt with chains that attached to his wrists and ankles. The men put earmuffs and eye pads on him, blindfolded him, and hooded him.

Mr. El-Masri was marched to a waiting plane, with the shackles cutting into his ankles. Once inside, he was thrown to the floor face down and his legs and arms were spread-eagled and secured to the sides of the plane. He felt an injection in his shoulder, and became lightheaded. He felt a second injection that rendered him nearly unconscious.

After five months of detention, El-Masri recounts, someone identified as an American doctor visited his cell on May 27, 2004 and told him not to drink or eat anything as he would be transported back to Germany the next day, and he would not be able to use the bathroom. But the road out of captivity was long, complicated, and unsafe, as described in the defendant’s legal documents:

The next morning, the doctor and the American prison director arrived in his cell. Mr. El-Masri was blindfolded and cuffed, led out of his cell, and driven for about ten minutes. He was then locked in what seemed to be a shipping container until he heard the sound of an aircraft arriving.

Mr. El-Masri was released from the shipping container, and his belongings were returned to him. He was told to change back into the clothes he had worn in Macedonia, and was given two new t-shirts. He was then driven to the waiting plane, blindfolded and ear-muffed, and led onto the plane, where he was chained to his seat.

When the plane landed, Mr. El-Masri, still blindfolded, was taken off the plane and placed in the back seat of a vehicle. He was not told where he was. He was driven in the vehicle up and down mountains, on paved and unpaved roads, for more than three hours. The vehicle came to a halt, and Mr. El-Masri was aware of the men in the car getting out and closing the doors, and then of men climbing into the vehicle. All of the men had Slavic-sounding accents but said very little.

The vehicle proceeded to drive for another three hours, again up and down mountains and on paved and unpaved roads. Eventually, the vehicle was brought to a halt. Mr. El-Masri was taken from the car, and his blindfold was removed. His captors gave him his belongings and passport, removed his handcuffs, and directed him to walk down the path without turning back. It was dark, and the road was deserted. Mr. El-Masri believed he would be shot in the back and left to die.

Mr. El-Masri rounded a corner and came across three armed men. They immediately asked for his passport. They saw that his German passport had no visa in it, and asked him why he was in Albania without legal permission. Mr. El-Masri replied that he had no idea where he was. He was told that he was near the borders with Macedonia and Serbia. The men led Mr. El-Masri to a small building with an Albanian flag, and he was presented to a superior officer. The officer observed Mr. El-Masri’s long hair and long beard and told him he looked like a terrorist. Mr. El-Masri asked to be taken to the German embassy, but the man told him he would be taken to the airport instead.

Mr. El-Masri was driven to the Mother Theresa Airport in Tirana, arriving at about 6:00 a.m. One of the Albanian guards took his passport and 320 Euros from his wallet and went into the airport building. When he returned, he instructed Mr. El-Masri to go through a door, where he was met by a person who guided him through customs and immigration control without inspection. Only after he boarded the plane and it was airborne did Mr. El-Masri finally believe he was returning to Germany.

The plane landed at Frankfurt International Airport at 8:40am. Mr. El-Masri was by then about forty pounds lighter than when he had left Germany, his hair was long and unkempt, and he had not shaved since his arrival in Macedonia. From Frankfurt he traveled to Ulm, and from there to his home outside the city. His house was empty and clearly had been so for some time. He proceeded to the Cultural Center in Neu Ulm and asked after his wife and children. He was told that his family had relocated to Lebanon when he failed to return from his holiday in Macedonia.

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

Recent contributions by Catherine Komp: