Steinmeier denies actions in Kurnaz case

Germany's foreign minister, battling demands from the opposition that he resign, denied on Thursday he had caused an innocent German-born Turk to suffer needlessly for years at the US Guantanamo Bay.

Steinmeier denies actions in Kurnaz case

Germany's foreignminister, battling demands from the opposition that he resign, denied onThursday he had caused an innocent German-born Turk to suffer needlessly foryears at the US Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was testifying forthe second time before a special parliamentary committee set up to investigateGerman cooperation with the USwar on terror after Sept. 11, 2001. The focus of his testimony centered on thestory of a German-born Turkish man, Murat Kurnaz, who was arrested in Pakistanthree weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and handed over to US authorities, whotransferred him to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp on Cuba, where he says he wastortured and abused. He was released in August 2006 without charges.

Steinmeier, who as former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's chief of staff atthe time coordinated intelligence matters, rejected media allegations that heand other senior officials had turned down a US offer to release Kurnaz inOctober 2002. "The government tried many times to intervene on behalf ofKurnaz," he said. "The US never considered releasing him."

The cases of Kurnaz and Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin who waskidnapped by the CIA and imprisoned in Afghanistan for five months, havedogged Steinmeier for over a year and sparked opposition calls for hisresignation.

Earlier, former Interior Minister Otto Schily said he accepted politicalresponsibility for the handling of Kurnaz but denied that he was a harmlessindividual, as some have said. He cited witness reports that Kurnaz had praisedthe 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centerand Pentagon.

"It wasn't just hearsay. There were witnesses who said Kurnaz calledthe Sept. 11 attacks 'Allah's will,'" he said. "He may have allowedpeople around him to lead him astray, he was not harmless," Schily said,adding that this in no way justified what Kurnaz says was torture -- illegal inGermany.

Both Schily and Steinmeier rejected the notion that Washington had offered to release Kurnaz inOctober 2002, as German media have repeatedly claimed.

"There was no such offer, neither official nor unofficial,"Steinmeier said.

Kurnaz says he is not and never was a terrorist and insists he has become avictim of character assassination. Schily said the foreign ministry did try tosecure Kurnaz's release but the plan was to have him sent to Turkey, not to Germany where he had residence butnot nationality.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16