European court condemns CIA in landmark ruling
France • "Renditions" program criticized in landmark ruling.
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Paris • A European court issued a landmark ruling Thursday that condemned the CIA's "extraordinary renditions" programs and bolstered those who say they were illegally kidnapped and tortured as part of an overzealous war on terrorism.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that a German car salesman was an innocent victim of torture and abuse, in a long-awaited victory for a man who had failed for years to get courts in the U.S. and Europe to acknowledge what happened to him.

Khaled El-Masri says he was kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, mistaken for a terrorism suspect, then held for four months and brutally interrogated at an Afghan prison known as the "Salt Pit" run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He says that once U.S. authorities realized he was not a threat, they illegally sent him to Albania.

The European court, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled that El-Masri's account was "established beyond reasonable doubt" and that Macedonia "had been responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the U.S. authorities in the context of an extra-judicial rendition."

It said the government of Macedonia violated El-Masri's rights repeatedly and ordered it to pay $78,500 in damages. Macedonia's Justice Ministry said it would comply.

U.S. officials closed internal investigations into the El-Masri case two years ago, and the administration of President Barack Obama has distanced itself from some counterterrorism activities conducted under ex-President George W. Bush.

The case drew broader attention because of how sensitive the CIA extraordinary renditions were for Europe, at a time when the continent lived in fear of terrorist attacks but was divided over the Bush administration's methods of rooting out terrorism. Greece gets infusion from euro partners

Brussels • Greece's euro partners agreed Thursday to hand over the next disbursement of the country's bailout loans that will prevent it from going bankrupt and potentially trigger more turmoil in financial markets.

The cash-strapped country will get a total of $64 billion between now and March, with $44.8 billion due in the coming days, officials said. Greece needs the money to stay afloat and avoid a potential default.

The decision by the finance ministers of the 17 EU countries that use the euro caps an often-tortuous period, when Greece tried to convince its creditors that it was holding up its end of the bailout bargain.

In return for the money that will see Greece through the winter months, the country had to commit to further austerity measures, including more spending cuts and tax increases.

The Associated Press