Germany gives up on extradition of CIA suspects

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BERLIN, Sep 23 (Reuters) Germany has given up efforts to extradite 13 suspected CIA agents from the United States in connection with the kidnapping a German citizen in 2003, the Justice Ministry said today.

Earlier this year, a Munich court ordered the arrest of the 13 on suspicion of kidnapping Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent who says he was flown from Macedonia to Afghanistan where he was imprisoned for months and tortured.

The chief prosecutor for the Bavarian state capital made a formal request to the German federal government in Berlin that it ask Washington to extradite the 13 to Germany for trial. But US officials have refused to meet the demand.

''The Americans have said quite clearly they will not extradite,'' a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said.

The development means Germany will not be able to institute proceedings against the suspected CIA agents.

The Masri case has focused media attention on CIA kidnappings of suspected terrorists for interrogation in third countries. The practice, called ''extraordinary rendition'', has caused tensions inside Germany, and between Berlin and Washington.

The abduction and interrogation of Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turk, also put the CIA and Germany's links with the organisation under scrutiny. Kurnaz was captured in 2001 and held for 4-1/2 years at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

Especially damning was Kurnaz's unconfirmed allegation that German troops in Afghanistan had participated in his abuse.

Berlin says both Kurnaz and Masri were innocent and their arrests a mistake.

Despite media scrutiny of the two cases, analysts say German cooperation with the CIA is close, with Berlin and Washington working together to fight terrorism.

REUTERS SG RK1850

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