EU parliament report claims 11 EU governments knew of alleged CIA secret prisons

Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 6:27 pm
By: News On 6

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) Eleven European Union governments, including Britain, Poland and Germany, knew about secret CIA prisons operating in Europe, a draft European Parliament report concluded Tuesday.

The report presented to the EU assembly's special committee investigating allegations about the detention centers and CIA kidnappings in Europe called on governments to launch their own inquiries to determine whether human rights laws were violated. It criticized top EU officials, including foreign policy chief Javier Solana and anti-terror coordinator Gijs de Vries of ``omissions and denials'' during testimony to the committee.

The draft also said there were more than a thousand CIA flights in the European region.

No EU governments have admitted that the claimed anti-terror operations were carried out on their territory. Governments have been warned by EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini that if they knew about the CIA renditions and secret flights they could be found in violation of EU law.

While thin on proof to back up the allegations, the committee report claimed it got information from secret documents and information from several sources in the United States and from national authorities in the 25-nation bloc.

``At least 1,245 flights operated by the CIA have flown into the European airspace or stopped over at European airports,'' the draft said.

The report said 11 EU nations, Britain, Poland, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus, had knowledge of the alleged U.S. secret anti-terrorism measures taking place on European soil.

Germany topped the list with 336 flight stopovers, while Britain had 170, according to the report. Others include: Ireland, 147; Portugal, 91; Greece, 64; Italy, 47; Cyprus, 57; Romania, 21; Poland, 11.

It said the committee had obtained ``serious circumstantial evidence'' showing that Poland may have hosted a temporary secret detention center for the CIA.

The British government denies knowing about secret CIA prisons or colluding in a secret program to transfer CIA prisoners.

A Foreign Office spokesman said there was nothing unusual about CIA flights using British airports.

``The U.K. is an international hub for refueling to and from the United States,'' he said on the government's customary condition of anonymity. ``Under the Chicago Convention, we can't investigate the aircraft unless we think that a crime is being committed at that time.''

Polish officials in Warsaw also rejected the allegations made by the report.

``The committee's report, from what we know so far, is not based on any strong proof, but only commonly repeated assumptions, suspicions and probabilities,'' said Krzysztof Lapinski, spokesman for Poland's minister for special services. ``We stand by our earlier stated stance that there were no secret CIA prisons in Poland.''

The report also criticized most of the 25 EU governments for lack of cooperation in their probe, which was launched in January and is expected to last until January.

The draft report will be voted upon by the special committee after the EU assembly's Christmas break, officials said.

Allegations that CIA agents shipped prisoners through European airports to secret detention centers, including compounds in Eastern Europe, were first reported in November 2005. Human Rights Watch later identified Poland and Romania as possible locations of the alleged secret prisons. Both countries have repeatedly denied involvement.

An investigator for the Council of Europe, a leading human rights group, said evidence pointed to the likelihood that planes linked to the CIA carrying terror suspects stopped in Romania and Poland and likely dropped off detainees there.

In September, President Bush acknowledged for the first time that terrorism suspects have been held in CIA-run prisons overseas, but did not specify where.