[Marxism] More conspiracy theories: Europeans Investigate CIA Role in Abductions PART 2
davidquarter at sympatico.ca
davidquarter at sympatico.ca
Sun Mar 13 13:27:43 MST 2005
Nasr frequently preached at two mosques in Milan that have long attracted religious
and political extremists, according to Italian and U.S. officials. One of the mosques,
a converted garage on Viale Jenner, is classified as a financier of terrorism causes
by the U.S. Treasury Department, which has accused it of supporting "the
movement of weapons, men and money around the world."
Nasr reinforced the mosque's reputation by preaching angrily against the U.S.-led
invasion of Afghanistan and handing out vitriolic pamphlets criticizing U.S. policy in
the Middle East. Italian counterterrorism police tapped his home telephone and kept
him under surveillance.
"He was the kind of person who, let's put it this way, did not speak diplomatically,"
said Abdelhamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Center at Viale Jenner,
who denies that either the mosque or the center sponsor terrorism or illegal activity.
"When he attacked America, he did not speak in half-measures. He got right to the
When Nasr vanished, his family and mosque leaders reported it as a kidnapping,
after a witness said she saw the abduction. The witness, a recent immigrant, said
she was scared to repeat her story to the police, however, leading some
investigators to speculate that Nasr had disappeared on his own and gone to Iraq to
fight U.S. forces.
Italian police opened a missing person investigation, but the case stalled for more
than a year. That changed in April 2004, when Nasr's wife unexpectedly received a
telephone call from her husband. He told her he had been kidnapped and taken to a
U.S. air base in Italy. He said he was then flown to another U.S. base, before being
taken to Cairo.
The call was recorded by Italian police, who had kept the wiretap on Nasr's home
telephone in place. Although transcripts have not been made public, Nasr's
colleagues at the mosque said he reported that he had been tortured and kept
naked in subfreezing temperatures in a prison in Cairo.
During the phone call, Nasr told his wife that he had been let out of prison in Egypt
but remained under house arrest. His relatives have said they believe he was
imprisoned again shortly afterward when news of the recorded conversation was
reported by Italian newspapers.
The existence of the wiretap is revealed in sealed Italian court papers reviewed by
The Washington Post. The documents, dated in the spring of 2004, include a
judge's authorization to continue the wiretap and show that investigators were
pursuing the theory that covert agents -- possibly from the United States, Italy or
Egypt -- were behind the kidnapping.
Italian investigators have since determined that 15 agents, some of them CIA
operatives, were involved in Nasr's abduction, according to reports in Corriere della
Sera, a leading Italian daily. Investigators were able to trace calls made by the
agents by linking calls made by the same phones near the mosque and Aviano Air
Base on the day Nasr vanished, the newspaper reported.
The investigation is being led by Armando Spataro, a well-known counterterrorism
prosecutor whose office has also built a hard-nosed reputation for winning
convictions in cases involving the Mafia and political corruption. Spataro, who has
worked closely with U.S. officials in the past on terrorism cases, confirmed that he
visited Aviano last month but declined to comment further.
Capt. Eric Elliott, a U.S. military spokesman at Aviano, said Spataro met at the
base for several hours with Italian military officials, who then forwarded a request
for records to their American counterparts. Elliott declined to describe the records
being sought, citing "an active investigation."
The U.S. Embassy in Rome declined to answer questions about whether American
agents were involved in Nasr's disappearance. "We do not comment on intelligence
matters," said Ben Duffy, an embassy spokesman.
Italian opposition lawmakers have demanded answers from Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi's government on whether Italian agents or intelligence services played a
role. But government ministers have remained tight-lipped.
Shaari, the director of the Islamic cultural center in Milan, said some Muslims are
worried they could be kidnapped, too.
"If they can take Abu Omar, then they can take anyone," he said. "This is an
extremely dangerous precedent, both for the Muslim community and for Italy, as a
democratic and free state."
In late December 2003, Khaled Masri got into a bitter argument with his wife in their
home town of Ulm, Germany. They agreed he should get away for a few days, so
he bought a bus ticket for Skopje, Macedonia.
At the Macedonian border on New Year's Eve, immigration officials took a close
look at his passport and detained him, without explanation. Other agents later
interrogated him and pressed him to admit he was a member of al Qaeda,
according to accounts Masri gave his attorney and German prosecutors.
Masri protested his innocence, but was kept under guard in Macedonia for three
weeks. He said that one day in late January 2004, he was beaten, stripped,
shackled and put on a plane that took him to Afghanistan. There, he was kept in a
cell under dismal conditions, deprived of water and repeatedly interrogated. Only
after going on a hunger strike, he said, did his captors relent; he was flown back to
the Balkans in May 2004.
He said he was released near an Albanian border checkpoint, where guards
returned his passport and cash. By the time he made it home, even his wife was
reluctant to believe his story, thinking he had left her for another woman, according
to his attorney.
German police have questioned Masri several times and said they had found his
version of events consistent and believable. Stamps in his passport show he
entered Macedonia and left Albania on the dates he described. The bus driver on
the route to Skopje confirmed to investigators that Masri had been on board and
was taken away by border guards.
Investigators have conducted a chemical radioisotope analysis of Masri's hair. They
said the findings backed up his story that he was malnourished while in captivity.
Flight logs also support Masri's claim that he was flown out of Macedonia by U.S.
secret agents. Aviation records show a U.S.-registered Boeing jet arrived in Skopje
at 9 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2004, and departed about six hours later. Masri had provided
German investigators with the same time and date.
The flight plan shows the aircraft was scheduled to go to Kabul, but later amended
its route to include a stopover in Baghdad. The existence of the flight logs was first
reported by Frontal 21, a news show on the German television network ZDF. A copy
of the logs was obtained by The Washington Post.
The jet, with tail number N313P, was registered at the time to a U.S. firm, Premier
Executive Transport Services Inc., that records suggest is a CIA front company.
The same firm owned another aircraft, a Gulfstream jet, that has been used in other
rendition cases, including the one in Sweden.
Masri's attorney and investigators say they think he was abducted because his
name is similar to that of an al Qaeda suspect, Khalid Masri, who allegedly played a
crucial role in persuading the members of the Hamburg cell who carried out the
Sept. 11 attacks to go to Afghanistan, where they first met Osama bin Laden.
Manfred Gnjidic, the lawyer, says he has asked the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for an
explanation of what happened, but has received no response.
"We are quite sure that they were behind this," said Gnjidic. "We are looking for
punishment and to hold someone accountable."
Robert Wood, an embassy spokesman, declined to answer specific questions about
the case. "But our policy is pretty clear," he said. "The United States does not
transfer detainees to countries where we believe it is more likely than not that they
will be tortured."
Macedonian officials also had little to say. "Our answer is, no comment," said Goran
Pavlovski, spokesman for the Macedonian Interior Ministry. "If the Germans want
information, they should ask us about it, and we will respond."
Under German law, prosecutors have the authority to investigate any crime
committed against a German citizen, even in foreign lands.
Hofmann, the Munich prosecutor, acknowledged that he has limited powers to
investigate cases outside Germany. But he said he was preparing a formal request
for legal help from the Macedonian government, as well as from Albanian and
"I'm confident that other information will be forthcoming," he said. "This case has a
considerable political meaning. There's a certain amount of pressure on everyone
Staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.
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