"The CIA's counter terror operations have been lawful, effective, closely reviewed and of benefit to many people, including Europeans, in disrupting plots and saving lives," said Gimigliano.
 
Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president, speaking after a meeting with George Bush, the US president, in Gdansk, told reporters: "I know nothing about any CIA prisons in Poland."
 
His predecessor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, who was Poland's president between 2001 and 2005, said: "I deny it. I've said as much several times."
 
Meanwhile, Ion Iliescu, the former Romanian president, who was mentioned in a list of ranking officials who allegedly had knowledge of the prisons, dismissed Marty's report as "stupid".
 
"Global spider's web"
 
The report by Dick Marty, a Council of Europe investigator and a former prosecutor, said the CIA operated prisons in northeastern Poland and southeast Romania part of a "global spider's web" of detention centres and illegal prison transfers.
 
It said that "high value detainees" such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is said to have confessed to being the mastermind behind the attacks on the US World Trade Centre on September 11 2001, and Abu Zubaydah, a suspected senior al-Qaeda operative, were held in Poland, while lesser detainees, but still of "remarkable importance", were taken to Romania.
 
Although the report did not give specific locations for the alleged jails, it gave graphic descriptions of conditions.
 
It told of prisoners being kept naked for weeks and sometimes attached to a "shackling ring" in cells.
 
Cells, sometimes equipped with video cameras, were cramped and kept extremely hot or cold, the report said, with prisoners sometimes made to listen to "torture music", and "distorted" verses of the Quran.
 
Bush acknowledged the existence of a secret detention programme last September, when he announced the CIA had moved Sheikh Mohammed and 13 other suspected terrorists to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.
 
European involvement
 

European  involvement in CIA flights might
breach
human rights treaties[GALLO/GETTY] 

The report, which included CIA sources, also said there were "sufficient grounds to declare that the highest state authorities were aware of the CIA's illegal activities on their territories".
 
Marty did not rule out the CIA having more such prisons in Europe, but told reporters he did not include that in his report because his sourcing was insufficient.
 
He accused Germany and Italy of obstructing investigations into secret detentions.
 
European involvement in clandestine prisons and secret CIA flights would breach Europe's human rights treaties, although the Council of Europe, which is separate from the EU and was set up to promote democracy and human rights in Europe, has no power to punish countries.
 
Abducted
 
The report coincides with the trial Italy of a group of Italian intelligence agents and 26 US defendants, all but one of them believed to be CIA operatives, over the US's extraordinary rendition programme.
 
The trial began on Friday, in the absence of all 26 US defendants who stand accused of kidnapping Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar and considered a "terror suspect", from a Milan street on February 17, 2003.
 
Nasr was suspected of recruiting fighters to various organistaions but had not been charged with any crime at the time of his disappearance.
 
In addition to the Americans, seven Italians, many also believed to be intelligence agents, have also been indicted in the case, including Nicolo Pollari, Italy's former military intelligence chief.
 
The 26 Americans have left Italy and the US has said that, should Italy requested it, the men would not be turned over for prosecution.
 
The trail has soured Italy-US relations and coincided with Bush's arrival in Italy to meet with Romano Prodi, Italy's president.