THE EL-MASRI CASE

In 2004, German citizen Khaled El-Masri was kidnapped and detained by the CIA. The story of an innocent man who fell victim to geopolitical power interests.

In 2004, while on a bus trip close to the Macedonian border, the German citizen Khaled El-Masri disappeared. He was kidnapped by the CIA and taken to a secret prison near Kabul as part of an “extraordinary rendition”. Five months later, he was released in a forest in Albania. His case was the main reason why the CIA’s worldwide “rendition programme” came to light. Its agents were forcibly taking suspected terrorists to secret locations and torturing them in order to extract confessions and obtain information. With the support of human rights lawyers in Europe and the United States, El-Masri spent the years after his abduction trying to restore his moral and legal integrity and to obtain a formal apology. However, neither the German nor the US government showed any interest in commenting on his case. Traumatized and paranoid, he ended up serving a five-year jail sentence after assaulting people he suspected of conspiring against him. Deeply disillusioned, he broke with Germany, left the country in 2014 and disappeared. In 2016, a classified CIA report about the El-Masri kidnapping was made public, stating “The detention of El-Masri was unjustified. … The two Agency officers primarily involved in El-Masri's rendition justified their commitment to his continued detention by insisting that they knew he was ‘bad’”. In 2018, director Stefan Eberlein tracks down El-Masri in Austria. We retell his story, describing how El-Masri fell victim to a government intervention and was caught up in geopolitical power interests. We reveal how the US and German government failed to take responsibility and action, thereby destroying the lives of Khaled El-Masri and his family.