Spanish prosecutors want 13 CIA agents arrested
Spanish prosecutors are asking a judge to issue arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents who they believe were involved in the spy agency’s 2004 “extraordinary rendition” of a German citizen, according to Spain's El Pais newspaper.
Prosecutors claim jurisdiction in the case because CIA personnel who handled the rendition of Khaled El-Masri had a stopover in Majorca en route to Macedonia. El-Masri has said he was taken to Afghanistan, where he was tortured for several months and then released when the CIA realized it had been a case of mistaken identity.
The Madrid-based El Pais listed the names of the alleged CIA employees, saying prosecutors suspected them of involvement in the abduction of El-Masri from Macedonia, where he was vacationing, to a secret CIA prison known as the “Salt Pit.”
“El-Masri was placed on a CIA-chartered jet that arrived in Macedonia from Palma de Majorca in January 2004, en route ultimately to Afghanistan,” wrote Harpers online blogger and international law specialist Scott Horton, who reported earlier on the Spanish developments Wednesday. “It appears that Majorca was used regularly as a refueling and temporary sheltering point for the CIA, with the knowledge of the prior conservative government.”
But much remains uncertain about the case, including the accuracy of the names on the prosecutors’ list, which they said were provided by the Guardia Civil, or national police.
El Pais indicated that police obtained guest records from a luxury hotel in Majorca that showed CIA personnel stayed there under false names on the night before they flew to Skopje to pick up Masri.
Prosecutors believe that the London-based human rights organization “Reprieve” has the real names of the CIA operatives, according to El Pais, and have asked the National Court to subpoena the authors of the list “for the purposes of ratifying the report about the identification of the true identity of the crew."
The CIA refuses to confirm or deny the accuracy of the names, as it did in a similar case in Milan. Last year nearly two dozen CIA operatives were convicted in absentia in Milan on charges of kidnapping a suspected al Qaeda operative known as Abu Omar, in 2003.
The Spanish prosecutors are also not certain whether Majorca was used in the Masri extradition, El Pais reported.
“The prosecutor's office also indicates in its filing that it has not been established that the US authorities ‘used the bases [in Spain] to transport detainees in the course of Operation Enduring Freedom,’ the military unit organized by Washington to fight against terrorism in Afghanistan,” the paper said.
It’s not the first time the names on the Spanish list have surfaced. A few years ago German prosecutors requested that the federal government in Berlin ask Washington to extradite CIA personnel allegedly involved in the Masri case.
“In a compromise,” The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported in September 2007, “German officials sent an informal inquiry to Washington last month. When U.S. officials responded that they would not cooperate, German authorities agreed to drop the matter.”
Whitlock added, “Some German security officials had opposed the extradition request, arguing that it could undermine U.S.-German cooperation against terrorism.”
In Italy, likewise, the Italian Ministry of Justice refused to honor the Milan prosecutor's request to ask Washington for the extradition of agents.
The same outcome could await Spanish prosecutors, regardless of whether the National Court honors their request.