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US official: Germany not keen on release of Guantanamo inmate

02-03-2007


Contradicting statements made by German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, a high-ranking former US official has said that German government officials did not try to get German-born Murat Kurnaz released from Guantanamo.

In an interview with German TV program "Monitor," Pierre-Richard Prosper, the US government's former ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues until Oct 2005, said that German officials never contacted him about releasing Kurnaz from the detention camp.

"During my entire time in office, Germany never showed any interest and I was the person to contact within the US government," said Prosper, who was responsible for returning Guantanamo inmates to their home countries from 2002 to 2005.

Kurnaz was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001 on suspicion of being a terrorist and spent more than four years in detention before being released without charge from Guantanamo in 2006. He says he was tortured and abused at the camp.

German government officials have denied delaying the release of Kurnaz, who has Turkish citizenship, but grew up in Germany. The case is now under investigation by a parliamentary committee. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's chief-of-staff, has come under fire for his role.

Steinmeier has said that the Schröder government repeatedly talked to US officials about the Kurnaz case and lobbied for his release.

But Prosper, who left public service to work as an attorney at the beginning of the year, said he didn't know of any such conversations.

"If the German government would have said: 'We want Kurnaz,' we would have immediately sat down to come to an agreement," Prosper said, according to German translations of the interview.

Prosper added that it was "not a secret" that Kurnaz had been "considered for release" since 2002.

"Germany and Turkey knew, or should have known, that the US was ready to talk about his release," he said, adding that US officials were interested in reducing the number of Guantanamo inmates drastically.

Prosper also said that US officials did not ask their German counterparts to use Kurnaz as an intelligence contact in Islamist groups in Germany upon his release, as Steinmeier has claimed.


Steinmeier has not commented on Prosper's statements. He is expected to testify before the parliamentary committee on March 22.

On Thursday, the investigation by the parliamentary committee was held up as some official documents relating to Murat Kurnaz were delayed. The papers are reportedly files from German domestic intelligence agency sources in Bremen alleging that Kurnaz had links to radical Islamists.

Siegfried Kauder, chairman of a parliament investigation committee, said he had requested the files from authorities in the northwestern city-state of Bremen and had been assured weeks ago that they were on their way.

"As of today, they have not arrived at the secretariat of the committee," the conservative politician said. "In this situation, sensible work by the committee is impossible."

DW staff (win)

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2370167,00.html

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