EU inquiry confirms secret CIA flights

The CIA has conducted more than 1,000 undeclared flights over Europe since 2001, some of which ferried terror suspects to US detention centres abroad, European Parliament investigators have said.

    CIA may have flown suspects from Europe to Guantanamo

    EU members of parliament presented on Wednesday a first interim report of the European Parliament's investigation into the alleged CIA abuses.


    "The CIA has, on several occasions, clearly been responsible for kidnapping and illegally detaining alleged terrorists on the territory of (EU) member states, as well as for extraordinary renditions," said Claudio Fava, the report's author.


    "Over 1,000 flights operated by the CIA transited through our territory," with Spain being the only EU country to ask questions about these flights, he said.


    The report is based on data provided by Eurocontrol, the EU's air safety agency, and information gathered during three months of hearings and more than 50 hours of testimony by individuals who said they were kidnapped and tortured by US agents.


    Suspect routes


    If the allegations prove to be true, the CIA planes violated an international air treaty that requires airlines to declare the route and stopovers for planes with a police mission.


    "The routes for some of these flights seem to be quite suspect. ... They are rather strange routes for flights to take. It is hard to imagine ... those stopovers were simply for providing fuel," Fava, an EU MP from Italy, said.


    "The routes for some of these flights seem to be quite suspect. ... They are rather strange routes for flights to take. It is hard to imagine ... those stopovers were simply for providing fuel"


    Claudio Fava,
    Author of the EU probe report


    He referred to the alleged secret transfer of an Egyptian cleric abducted from a Milan street in 2003, a German who claimed he was transferred from Macedonia to Afghanistan, and the transfer of a Canadian citizen from New York to Syria, among other suspect flights.


    He said the plane carrying suspect Khaled al-Masri, a Kuwaiti-born German national, from Macedonia to Afghanistan in 2004 flew from Algeria to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on January 22, from Palma de Mallorca to Skopje, Macedonia on January 23, and from Skopje to Kabul via Baghdad overnight the following day.


    Al-Masri told the European Parliament committee earlier this year he was arrested by US intelligence agents on the Macedonian border while on vacation in December 2003.


    He said he was then taken to a hotel in Skopje and imprisoned there for several weeks before being flown to Kabul and put in a prison for five months.


    He said he was flown back to Europe in May 2004 and released in Albania.




    Fava's report criticises Sweden for handing over in 2001 two Egyptian terrorism suspects to US agents, who flew them to Egypt.


    The New York-based rights group, Human Rights Watch, said there is credible evidence they were later tortured.


    He also criticised Bosnia for handing over six men of Algerian origin to the CIA.


    The US has not officially
    commented on the secret flights

    "These men have been taken illegally to Guantanamo, where they have been since January 2002," Stephen Oleskey, their lawyer who testified on Tuesday before the EU MPs, told Reuters in reference to the US prison camp in Cuba.


    Fava also said that the groups of agents on the flights were often the same, and that it was unlikely that at least some EU governments would not have any information about the CIA operations investigated by the EU assembly.


    The United States has not made any public comments on allegations of secret renditions.


    The official line of EU governments is that there has been no irrefutable proof of such renditions.


    The parliament inquiry started in January.


    Detention centres


    The investigation came on the heels of media reports that US intelligence officers interrogated al-Qaeda suspects at secret prisons in eastern Europe and transported some on secret flights that passed through Europe following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.


    Clandestine detention centres, secret flights to or from Europe to countries where suspects could face torture or extraordinary renditions all would breach the continent's human rights treaties.


    But the focus of the inquiry soon changed from secret prisons in Europe to rendition flights as people who said they were abducted by US agents gave detailed accounts of their transfers to detention centres in the Middle East, Asia and northern Africa.


    Few of those who testified touched upon the alleged existence of secret prisons in eastern Europe that was first reported by The Washington Post in November 2005.


    Human Rights Watch, identified Romania and Poland as possible hosts of secret US-run detention facilities, although both countries denied involvement.


    Fava provided no evidence of secret CIA prisons on EU territory, saying the committee would focus on the alleged detention centres later and may go to Poland and Romania in September.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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