German Authorities Close Islamic Center

By STEPHEN GRAHAM BERLIN – Authorities on Wednesday shut down an Islamic center once attended by a man who accuses the CIA of kidnapping him and sending him to a secret Afghan prison to be abused and interrogated. The man’s lawyer has linked the alleged kidnapping to the investigation of extremist activity at the center. The state government of Bavaria said Wednesday it was shutting down the Multi-Kultur-Haus association in the southern town of Neu-Ulm after it seized material urging Muslims to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. Khaled al-Masri, a Kuwait-born German citizen who is suing the CIA for allegedly spiriting him to Afghanistan for interrogation, has said he visited the center several times before he was snatched. Al-Masri said he was taken while trying to enter Macedonia on New Year’s Eve 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he was subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” during five months in captivity, according to a lawsuit filed in a Virginia federal court. He was flown to Albania in late May 2004 and put on a plane back to Germany, he has said. Al-Masri has said his captors told him he was seized in a case of mistaken identity. His lawyer, however, has suggested that al-Masri was abducted because of his links to the Islamic association, which provided meetings, prayer rooms and other services for local Muslims. “In all interrogations, in Macedonia and Afghanistan, Khaled al-Masri was asked only about the Multi-Kultur-Haus in Ulm, about the people he knew there,” Manfred Gnjidic told Munich’s Abendzeitung newspaper last month. Al-Masri’s case has stoked debate in Germany about how to prevent terrorist attacks while safeguarding civil liberties. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, for instance, is calling for tougher laws so that anyone who has trained in camps in Afghanistan can be prosecuted. In remarks published Wednesday, Uwe Schuenemann, the interior minister of Lower Saxony state, floated a new idea: placing electronic tags on foreign extremists who cannot be deported to their countries of origin because they might be tortured. “That would allow the observation of many of the roughly 3,000 potentially violent Islamists, hate preachers and fighters trained in foreign camps,” Schuenemann was quoted as saying in the daily Die Welt. It was unclear whether federal officials would take up the suggestion. Electronic tags were used in 2000 on a trial basis in one German state with prisoners on parole, but have not been adopted more widely. Al-Masri claims U.S. agents questioned him about associates including his friend Reda Seyam, an Egypt-born German citizen under investigation by German federal prosecutors on suspicion of supporting al-Qaida. Al-Masri has denied any connection to terrorism. Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein told The Associated Press on Wednesday that investigators had noticed al-Masri visiting the Multi-Kultur-Haus but called him “rather a marginal figure.” Beckstein’s ministry said the association was promoting extremist ideas and armed “holy war.” Security officials confiscated and searched the association’s premises in Neu-Ulm Wednesday and froze its bank account. There was no mention of arrests or the results of the search.