Washington, May 13 (DPA) The US government urged a judge to dismiss a German citizen's lawsuit that claims he was kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the US mistakenly believed he was a terror suspect.
The lawsuit by Lebanese-born Khaled El-Masri charges former CIA director George Tenet and three US-based aviation companies with breaking US and international law, drawing attention to the highly disputed US practices in the fight against terrorism.
At a hearing Friday, the US government asked district judge Thomas S. Ellis III to throw out the case, arguing that a trial would risk exposing state secrets. Ellis said he would rule soon on whether the case should go ahead.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a human rights group representing El-Masri, called the government's secrecy argument "very dubious" because his allegations have been widely reported.
El-Masri alleges he was seized in Macedonia in December 2003 and handed over to US officials, who brought him to Afghanistan as a terror suspect and mistreated him during five months of detention.
He says he was released without explanation in May 2004 in Albania and wants an apology from the CIA. His lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, said he may also seek compensation.
The ACLU argues that El-Masri is innocent and was held for two months after Tenet was informed that his capture was a mistake.
"I want this cleared up, I want to know why they did this to me," El-Masri said from Ulm, Germany, in a conference call. "They need to acknowledge their mistake and offer an apology."
There have been several reports of so-called renditions - capturing terror suspects and taking them to a third country - and torture in the US-declared war on terrorism.
A Washington Post report last year that the CIA operates secret prisons abroad, including in Eastern Europe, has touched off investigations by the European Parliament, the German parliament and a German prosecutor.
"Khaled El-Masri is the public face of the US rendition programme. His nightmare ordeal is known throughout the entire world," Wizner said.
Data from Europe's air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol, shows the CIA has operated more than 1,000 flights in Europe since 2001, a European Parliament report said this month.