'Wall of silence' surrounds CIA secret prisons issue

“A wall of silence” was built by the European governments around accusations that they let the CIA abduct their residents and run clandestine prisons on their territory, a European investigator said Wednesday.

Swiss Sen. Dick Marty charged in a report earlier this month that the CIA ran secret jails in Poland and Romania - with the knowledge of several local politicians - after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States to interrogate key terror suspects.

Marty, a former prosecutor, has led an inquiry on behalf of the Council of Europe into alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe.

His report, citing unidentified CIA sources, said that "high value detainees" such as self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and suspected senior al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah were held in Poland. It said lesser detainees, who were still of "remarkable importance," were taken to Romania.

In an earlier report, Marty accused 14 European nations of colluding with U.S. intelligence in a web of rights abuses to help the CIA spirit terror suspects to illegal detention facilities.

"There has been a wall of silence on the part of the governments, silence that covers illegal acts, human rights violations. Why this silence, why this systematic refusal to respond to our questions?" Marty told the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, which asked him to investigate CIA activities in Europe after media reports of secret prisons emerged in 2005. The assembly, comprising lawmakers from the human rights watchdog's 47 member states, meets four times a year to debate human rights issues and social and political trends in Europe.

People were "spirited away without any judicial control ... and that was also the case in Europe," Marty said.

His report, which did not give specific locations for the alleged jails, provided graphic descriptions of conditions in the cells.

It told of prisoners being kept naked for weeks, sometimes attached to a "shackling ring" in cells. Buckets served as toilets. Masked guards who never spoke were the only contact for those consigned to four-month isolation regimes, it said.

Poland and Romania have vehemently denied the allegations, and most of the other EU countries mentioned by Marty have denied any wrongdoing.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini has complained Marty's report only quotes anonymous witnesses and does not name any sources.

U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledged the existence of a secret detention program last September, but did not say where the prisons were located.

Marty faced harsh criticism form Polish and Romanian parliamentarians - from government and opposition parties alike - for exposing their countries based on information provided by unnamed CIA operatives.

Polish lawmaker Urzsula Gacek, from the opposition Civic Platform, called Marty's report a "piece of fiction, a gripping political thriller which fails to provide a single piece of evidence," while Romanian Social Democratic lawmaker Minodora Cliveti said she found some of Marty's accusations "rather funny."