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New Swedish Documents Illuminate CIA Action
Agiza, a physician, was convicted in an Egyptian military court and sentenced to 15 years in prison after a trial that lasted six hours. He was charged with being a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a radical group that the U.S. government has listed as a terrorist organization. He and his lawyers have acknowledged that he once worked with Ayman Zawahiri, a fellow Egyptian and the ideological leader of al Qaeda, but say that he cut ties with the group many years ago.
Zery was released from prison in October 2003. Egyptian officials notified the Swedish government last year that he was no longer under suspicion. His lawyer said he remained under surveillance.
The Swedish government kept the CIA's role in the case a secret for more than three years. Then, in 2004, following unofficial reports of the rendition, it released documents showing that a U.S.-registered plane had been used to transport the Egyptians to Cairo but said the details were classified. It wasn't until March, when the parliamentary investigator released his findings, that the CIA's direct involvement was publicly confirmed.
The revelations created a stir in Sweden, which has long been outspoken in its support of international human rights. A parliamentary committee is scheduled to open hearings on government officials' handling of the expulsion.
Although the parliamentary investigator concluded that the Swedish security police deserved "extremely grave criticism" for losing control of the operation and for being "remarkably submissive to the American officials," no Swedish officials have been charged or disciplined.
"It's quite clear that laws were broken. It is against Swedish law and against international law," said Anna Wigenmark, a lawyer for the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, which has worked on behalf of the Egyptian suspects. She and other human rights advocates have charged that the treatment of Agiza and Zery also violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
"It's unacceptable that something like this could happen on Swedish soil and yet nothing has been done about it," Wigenmark said.
Before their expulsion, the two men had lived in Sweden for extended periods and had applied for political asylum.
The Swedish government has revealed little about why it suddenly decided to expel them, three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. It has said only that the decision was made on the basis of secret intelligence information, some of it from foreign services, indicating that the men posed a security threat. Swedish officials have refused to disclose any of the evidence or reveal where the information came from.
Fresh details of the transfer are contained in more than 100 pages of interview transcripts with Swedish police officers who witnessed the events at the Stockholm airport and police commanders who oversaw the case, as well as in other documents from the national security police. The records describe a hectic and haphazardly planned effort to deport the men.
Swedish security police wanted to arrest the men and put them on a flight to Cairo immediately to avoid giving their lawyers a chance to file an emergency appeal in court.
Swedish government ministers hastily scheduled a meeting for Dec. 18, 2001, to formally approve the expulsion. But the security police were unable to charter a flight to take the Egyptians to Cairo until the next morning. Police officials, worried about an overnight delay, turned to the CIA for help, according to the documents.