updated 10/7/2006 5:22:23 AM ET 2006-10-07T09:22:23

The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and other detainees may have been held and interrogated at a U.S. air base in Germany after they were captured, a British human rights group said Friday. Germany denied the claim.

The human rights group Reprieve cited information from three detainees in U.S. custody in its report. The organization said it believed Ramstein Air Base was the place used, though it added that it could have been another U.S. base in Germany.

“We call upon the German government to order an independent investigation,” said Clive Stafford Smith, legal director for Reprieve.

According to Reprieve, Hassan bin Attash — who was transferred to Jordanian custody in 2002 for 16 months after being arrested in Pakistan — claims he was told by his Jordanian torturers that his brother was being interrogated at a U.S. prison at an air force base in Germany. The brother, Waleed Tawfiq bin Attash, is an alleged senior al-Qaida figure. On Sept. 6, President Bush announced he had been transferred to Guantanamo along with 13 other detainees who had been held by the CIA in secret locations.

Binyam Mohamed, another detainee cited by Reprieve, was held in Morocco for 18 months after being captured in April 2002 in Pakistan. He claims he was told by Moroccan interrogators that Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, was being held for interrogation at a U.S. prison at an air force base in Germany, Reprieve said.

Shaker Aamer, the third detainee cited in the report, who was also detained in Pakistan, believes that he and 30 other prisoners stopped in Germany and changed planes while being transported from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay in February 2002.

“The prisoners were blindfolded and shackled, but Shaker Aamer could see underneath his blindfold and hear people talking,” Reprieve said.

German denial
Thomas Steg, a spokesman for the German government, said officials already reported “comprehensively” to a secretive parliamentary panel.

“It has become clear that there is nothing to these accusations, there were and are no such facilities in Germany,” Steg said. “And so I can only reject this report.”

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington-area military policy think tank, said it appeared plausible that Ramstein, in southwestern Germany, was used as a refueling stop for CIA planes carrying detainees. But Pike said it didn’t seem plausible that Ramstein housed a secret detention facility.

“There are too many people there,” Pike said. “It seems to me it would be noticed, an item of conversation.”

It also appears implausible that interrogators in Morocco and Jordan would tell terrorism suspects that top suspected al-Qaida detainees were being held in a U.S. base in Germany, Pike said.

“I don’t know what incentive an interrogator might have to provide such sensitive information,” the analyst said. “They’re there to extract information, rather than to impart it.”

Italian prosecutors investigating the alleged CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Milan in 2003 believe that he was transported to Egypt via Ramstein.

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