A German citizen, who says he was put on a CIA plane and flown to Afghanistan where he says he was tortured for five months, is back in the U.S. this week to appeal the dismissal of his lawsuit against the former head of the CIA George Tenet and other officials.
Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Khaled el-Masri said he believes in the legal system in the U.S.
"What really matters to me is that I want to know why this was done to me, and I want an explanation and an apology," he said.
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El-Masri says that in December 2003 he attempted to go to Macedonia for vacation. While trying to enter the country, he says, he was arrested and put on a CIA plane.
After being held in a hotel room for 23 days, el-Masri was allegedly moved to the "Salt Pit" in Afghanistan where he says he was stripped, beaten and abused by CIA agents for months. Once the CIA realized it was a case of mistaken identity, they flew him back to Europe and dumped him on a path on top of a hill in Albania without charging him with any crime.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, claims that shortly after el-Masri was flown to Afghanistan, CIA officers realized they had the wrong man. The suit says Tenet was notified of the mistake, yet el-Masri remained in detention for two more months.
El-Masri's case was one of the first to draw attention to the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, in which prisoners are flown to outside countries and technically turned over to foreign governments for interrogation.
His lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year after the government argued it would reveal information vital to national security and the war on terror. El-Masri's lawyers have appealed that ruling.
"Khaled is not the only person who has been subjected to the U.S. rendition program," said el-Masri's attorney Steven Watt, "but he is one of only two men to have had the courage, tenacity and the resources to challenge what happened to him in a U.S. court."