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Former German official defends foreign minister over case of ex-Guantanamo inmate

Former German official defends foreign minister over case of ex-Guantanamo inmate

A senior official under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has defended his government, and Germany's current foreign minister, against accusations that it obstructed the release of a man held for years at Guantanamo Bay.
The case of former captive Murat Kurnaz has put Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the defensive over recent days. Steinmeier, who was Schroeder's chief of staff, has faced media allegations that the chancellery and other departments spurned an early U.S. offer to free Kurnaz.
"At no time did the former government make even a hint of an attempt to prevent or simply obstruct the release of Kurnaz," former Interior Minister Otto Schily was quoted as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in comments released Saturday.
"On the contrary, there were efforts to persuade the U.S. government to release him," Schily added.
Kurnaz, a German-born Turk, was detained in Pakistan in 2001, turned over to U.S. authorities and held at the U.S. prison camp on Cuba as a terror suspect.
Kurnaz, now 24, was released in 2006 and returned to Germany after a U.S. federal judge found that evidence did not justify his detention and Chancellor Angela Merkel intervened.
On Tuesday, a report from a special committee of the European Parliament said that, "according to confidential information," Berlin did not accept a U.S. offer in 2002 to release Kurnaz. Steinmeier, however, has insisted that he knew of no "official offer."
Schily said there had been "significant security concerns that had to be taken seriously." Steinmeier, he added, "behaved completely correctly in the Kurnaz case."
Steinmeier has yet to testify about the case before a German parliamentary panel, which is investigating, among other matters, the Kurnaz issue and the alleged kidnapping by the CIA in 2003 of a German national, Khaled al-Masri.
Claudia Roth, a leader of the opposition Greens, called for him to appear before the panel quickly.
"The government's secretiveness is damaging the image and credibility of German politics," she told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper.


Updated : 2021-04-23 20:25 GMT+08:00