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German to fight on after CIA torture lawsuit fails
By Mark Trevelyan
May 19, 2006

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German man who says he was abducted and tortured by the CIA will consider taking his case to a higher court after a U.S. district judge dismissed it on national security grounds, his lawyer said on Friday.

Judge T.S. Ellis, in a ruling on Thursday, agreed with U.S. government arguments that moving forward with Khaled el-Masri's case would risk national security by exposing state secrets about CIA activities vital to the U.S. war on terrorism.

Masri's lawyer Manfred Gnjidic told Reuters his client was disappointed but added: "We don't give up that quickly."

He would now examine if it was possible to take the case -- also under investigation by German prosecutors and members of the German and European Parliaments -- to a higher U.S. court or an international body such as the World Court in The Hague.

In a case that has sparked fierce criticism of U.S. methods in the "war on terror", Masri says he was flown by the Central Intelligence Agency from Macedonia to Afghanistan in 2004 and jailed for months as a terrorist suspect before being freed without charge and dumped in Albania.

Washington has declined to comment on his case, although it acknowledges it has secretly transferred some terrorist suspects between countries in a controversial practice known as "extraordinary rendition".

Human rights groups say rendition and incommunicado detention are a recipe for torture, but Washington says it does not abuse detainees or hand them to countries that do.

Gnjidic said the judge's decision that U.S. national security took precedence over Masri's interests effectively granted a license to the CIA to act outside the law.

"The logic is that even when there's evidence (of abuse), the CIA can simply fall back on state secrecy and can't be stopped from committing crimes, even on foreign territory, without having to fear any consequences," he said.

Gnjidic was speaking shortly after the United Nations committee against torture told the United States on Friday it should close any secret prisons abroad and the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba, saying they violated international law.

In Thursday's ruling, Judge Ellis said his decision was not a comment on whether Masri's allegations were true or false.

A German foreign ministry spokesman said it had appeared after the judgment that Masri still had a possibility to seek compensation, but declined further comment on the case.

Masri, 42, is suing former CIA boss George Tenet, 10 unnamed CIA agents, three companies he says owned the planes that were used to transfer him, and 10 employees of those companies. He wants damages of at least $75,000 but has said he would consider settling in exchange for an apology from Tenet.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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