European Probe Finds Signs Of CIA-Run Secret Prisons

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, June 8, 2006

BERLIN, June 7 -- A European investigator concluded Wednesday that there are "serious indications" that the CIA operated secret prisons for senior al-Qaeda figures in Poland and Romania as part of a clandestine "spider's web" to catch, transfer and hold terrorism suspects around the world.

Dick Marty, a Swiss lawyer working on behalf of the Council of Europe, the continent's official human rights organization, said at least seven other European nations colluded with the CIA to capture and secretly detain terrorism suspects, including several who were ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.

Sweden, Italy, Britain, Turkey, Germany, Bosnia and Macedonia "could be held responsible for violations of the rights of specific individuals" who were handed over to the CIA or captured by U.S. operatives in those countries, Marty said in a report released in Paris.

He also said Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Greece and Portugal turned a blind eye to CIA-chartered flights that landed on their soil to transfer terrorism suspects within Europe and beyond.

"It is now clear," Marty added in his report, "that authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities. Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack characterized the report as "sort of rehash" and lacking in "solid facts." He defended the U.S. policy of abducting terrorism suspects and detaining them without oversight from the courts as "an internationally established legal practice" and said intelligence cooperation between the United States and its allies "saves lives in the war on terror."

The CIA declined to comment on the report Wednesday.

Marty acknowledged that he lacked proof that would firmly establish the existence of the secret prisons. But he cited flight data and satellite photos acquired from European agencies as evidence that the CIA transported high-level terrorism suspects from Afghanistan to airports in Szymany, Poland, in October 2003 and Timisoara, Romania, in January 2004. Marty said a close examination of the flights indicated that the suspects were dropped off in those countries for detention.

"Even if proof, in the classical meaning of the term, is not as yet available, a number of coherent and converging elements indicate that such secret detention centers did indeed exist in Europe," Marty wrote.

Marty has accused Poland and Romania of stonewalling his requests for information. On Wednesday, officials in those countries repeated earlier denials that they permitted the CIA to run secret prisons within their borders.

"The accusations are slanderous," Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, the prime minister of Poland, told reporters in Warsaw. "They are not based on any facts."

"There is no evidence there were such detention bases in Romania," Romeo Raicu, head of Romania's parliamentary committee overseeing foreign intelligence services, told the Associated Press.

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