EU countries: European lawmakers demand answers on alleged secret CIA prisons, flights

European lawmakers accused EU countries today of failing to address allegations of CIA secret prisons and flights across the continent and demanded to know "who was on those flights, where they went." Allegations the CIA hid and interrogated key al-Qaida suspects at Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe were first reported in The Washington Post on Nov. 2. A day later, Human Rights Watch said it had evidence the CIA transported suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania.

Sarah Ludford, a British member of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, said Thursday it was time for answers. "I am not at all reassured that there is sufficient determination by (member states) to get to the bottom of this and establish the truth," Ludford said. "The allegations are now beyond speculation. We now have sufficient evidence involving CIA flights. We need to know who was on those flights, where they went."

Several EU governments have launched formal investigations into the allegations, but so far most have only vigorously denied media reports about apparent aircraft landings and secret jails. The prime ministers of Spain and Italy, meeting in Rome, also said Thursday that neither country had any evidence of any illegal CIA activities.

Spanish authorities have investigated at least 10 stopovers on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca by private planes described in Spanish media reports as being operated for the CIA, and a smaller number of similar stopovers in the Canary Islands.

Daria Pesce, the lawyer representing Robert Seldon Lady, former Milan CIA station chief and one of 22 purported CIA agents accused in the kidnapping of a radical Egyptian cleric on a Milan street in 2003, said the Italian secret services had to know about it. The cleric, Osma Moustafa Hassan Nasr, was flown to Egypt, Milan prosecutors say, in an abduction purportedly part of the CIA's program of "extraordinary rendition."

The Italian government has consistently denied that government or secret service officials had any knowledge. The EU civil liberties panel said the full European parliament would decide in December whether to launch a formal investigation into reports the CIA interrogated al-Qaida suspects at Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe and used European airports to transfer prisoners.

The committee also demanded that the EU's air safety organization provide flight logs and details of several dozen suspect planes that flew through Europe. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said Monday he will propose the suspension of voting rights for any nation found to have hosted a secret detention center.

The European Union has requested a formal response from the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush about the reports. The United States will answer "to the best of our ability," the State Department said, without setting a date for the reply.

Clandestine detention centers would violate the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty binding on all European countries. While Romanian officials have denied the existence of a secret CIA prison, they have been vague about the issue of possible transit of prisoners through Romanian territory, the AP reported.

Poland President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said his country has never allowed the CIA to hold prisoners on its territory. On Tuesday, he told reporters in Brussels he had no information on possible CIA flights.


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