Source AP ©

Man alleging that CIA kidnapped and tortured him on two years probation for arson

A man who claims that CIA kidnapped and tortured him was given two years of probation on charges of arson.

The state court in the southern town of Memmingen also ordered that Khaled el-Masri, a 44-year-old German of Lebanese descent, seek therapy after hearing expert testimony that he needed psychiatric help.

The sentence was far more lenient than the possible maximum 10 years in prison, but followed the recommendation of the prosecution. El-Masri's defense had asked for 20 months probation.

El-Masri was detained in May after the incident at a Metro superstore in the southern city of Neu-Ulm.

As the trial opened, his attorney, Manfred Gnjidic, said that el-Masri admitted getting into a heated argument with two saleswomen over the return of an MP3 player he had purchased, and spitting at one of them. The slander accusation stemmed from that incident.

He then returned to the store with four gas canisters and set a fire outside a side entrance that caused 100,000 EUR(US$147,000) in water and smoke damage.

The attorney said el-Masri also admitted punching an official at a driver's testing center, several months earlier, sending him to the hospital with head injuries.

Gnjidic told the court el-Masri was suffering the aftereffects of his ordeal at the hands of the Americans.

El-Masri asserts he was mistakenly identified as an associate of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers and was kidnapped while attempting to enter Macedonia on New Year's Eve 2003.

He claims he was flown to a CIA-run prison known as the "salt pit" in Afghanistan, where he was beaten and sexually abused with an object during five months in captivity before being released in Albania in May 2004.

The case reached top political levels, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Washington admitted making a mistake with el-Masri.

His case also caused trans-Atlantic friction in April when Munich prosecutors issued warrants for the 13 CIA agents suspected in the alleged kidnapping. U.S. officials have declined to discuss the case, and Washington has refused to extradite the agents.

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