'CIA did illegal things in EU'

2006-01-24 11:52

Strasbourg - The head of a European investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons will maintain on Tuesday that the CIA conducted illegal activities in Europe by transporting and detaining prisoners.

Swiss senator Dick Marty's interim report will focus on reported cases of the US sending suspected terrorists to countries where they are likely to face torture.

It will include an Egyptian cleric allegedly kidnapped from Milan, Italy in 2003.

Marty is investigating on behalf of the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights watchdog, which launched the probe after allegations surfaced in November that US agents interrogated key al-Qaeda suspects at clandestine prisons in eastern Europe and transported some suspects to other countries passing through Europe.

Clandestine detention centres would violate European human rights treaties.

A Council of Europe official urged national authorities and EU bodies to better co-operate with investigators, saying the probe was not meant to punish countries for violating the treaties.

"I would like to see some parliaments (stand up to) the governments," said Rene van der Linden, chairperson of the Council's parliamentary assembly, an advisery body comprising several hundred national parliamentarians.

Van der Linden said the investigators still have not obtained log books archived by the Brussels-based air safety organisation Eurocontrol so they can determine flight patterns of several dozen suspected CIA airplanes. Experts say flight logs could help to determine whether the CIA secretly transported prisoners to Europe.

The 46-nation Council has also sent a letter to European governments asking them to provide, by February 21, all information they have on possible secret detention centres on their territory. Many governments have not yet responded, and some claim they have not even received the letter.

Last week, Italy's justice minister asked the United States to allow Italian prosecutors to question 22 purported CIA operatives they accuse of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric and terrorist suspect in 2003 from a Milan street.

The suspects are wanted in Italy for the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on February 17 2003. Prosecutors claim he was taken by the CIA to a joint US-Italian air base, flown to Germany and then to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

The operation was believed part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries where some allegedly are subjected to torture.

"In the Abu Omar case is a crystal clear case of extraordinary rendition," said Marty. "Italian investigators built a net around him, and the Americans destroyed it all."

Prosecutors say the cleric's abduction was a serious violation of Italian sovereignty, and that it had hindered Italian terrorism investigations.