Spanish prosecutors seek the arrest of 13 CIA agents

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.

The Washington Post reports that 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.

Scott Horton reports that Khaled El-Masri, a greengrocer from Neu-Ulm, Germany, was seized by the United States as a result of mistaken identity while he was on vacation in the former Yugoslavia. 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. 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. While held in the notorious CIA prison known as the Salt Pit, El-Masri was apparently tortured during extensive interrogations before intelligence officers realized that they had seized the wrong man.

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.

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