Prosecutors attached to the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid are reportedly requesting that Judge Ismael Moreno issue an order for the arrest of thirteen CIA agents involved in an extraordinary rendition operation from 2004, the newspaper El País reports this afternoon, citing sources within the court.
The case relates to Khaled El-Masri, a greengrocer from Neu-Ulm, Germany, 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. The Washington Post reported that CIA agents, fearing the consequences of releasing him, argued for his continued detention and in fact held him for at least several weeks after his release had been ordered. Condoleezza Rice, then national security advisor to President Bush, intervened and directed his release. El-Masri’s CIA abductors entered Spanish territory using forged British passports, according to the prosecutors. They are seeking James Fairing, Jason Franklin, Michael Grady, Lyle Edgar Lumsen III, Eric Matthew Fain, Charles Goldman Bryson, Kirk James Bird, Walter Richard Greensbore, Patricia O’Riley, Jane Payne, James O’Hale, John Richard Deckard and Héctor Lorenzo, according to information provided by the Spanish Guardia Civil. The case is also under investigation in Germany.
The Spanish prosecutors have been closely studying the prosecution in Italy of 23 American agents in connection with another extraordinary rendition, involving an Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar, who was seized off the streets of Milan and taken to Egypt, where he was tortured. The Italian proceedings occurred in absentia after the Americans fled to avoid arrest. The trial resulted in the conviction of 23 Americans, 21 of them intelligence operatives. A criminal proceeding relating to the kidnapping and torture of El-Masri is also underway in Germany.