Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Supreme Court may hear allegations of CIA abuses


The US Supreme Court was expected to decide as early as yesterday whether to hear the appeal of a German citizen who alleges he was kidnapped by the CIA, held illegally for five months and tortured.

The high court is the last option of appeal for Khaled el-Masri in his lawsuit against former CIA director George Tenet and others after lower courts, agreeing with the administration of President George W. Bush, dismissed the case on national security grounds.

If the court hears the case, it could have implications for US arguments in many terror-related cases that court hearings risk exposing state secrets and could harm national interests.

The case is one of many challenges to policies the Bush administration says are necessary to defend the US against terror threats.

The el-Masri case centers on the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, in which terrorism suspects are captured and taken to foreign countries for interrogation.

The US government says it does so only after receiving assurances that transferred prisoners will not be subjected to torture.

Human rights groups have heavily criticized the program and insisted that government should have to answer allegations in court.

El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was mistakenly identified as an associate of the Sept. 11 hijackers and was kidnapped while about to enter Macedonia legally on New Year's Eve 2003.

He says he was flown to a CIA-run prison known as the "salt pit" near Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was beaten and sodomized with an object during five months in captivity. The lawsuit seeks damages of at least US$75,000.

If the Supreme Court takes up the case, it will rule on whether lower courts were right to dismiss the lawsuit.

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