Thursday, June 28, 2007

Marty slams "wall of silence" over CIA jails

Source: swissinfo

A Swiss investigator says European governments have built "a wall of silence" against charges that they colluded in a secret CIA prison network for terror suspects.

In a report earlier this month Senator Dick Marty said the CIA ran secret jails in Poland and Romania to interrogate key terror suspects after the 2001 attacks on the United States.

The report – the former prosecutor's second into the affair – was approved on Wednesday by the parliamentary assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog.

"There has been a wall of silence on the part of the governments, silence that covers illegal acts, human rights violations," Marty told the assembly, which asked him to investigate CIA activities in Europe after media reports of secret prisons emerged in 2005.

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

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

Marty accused the former Polish president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and the current and former presidents of Romania, Ion Iliescu and Traian Basescu, of having known and approved of the secret CIA operations on their soil.

The Swiss senator added that Germany and Italy had used "state secrecy" to obstruct investigations.

Poland and Romania have vehemently denied the allegations of housing secret prisons, and most of the other EU countries mentioned in Marty's reports have denied any wrongdoing.

"It is a far-fetched conspiracy theory spiced up with a generous helping of anti-Americanism," Polish senator Urszula Gacek told the assembly, describing the report as a "piece of fiction".

Romanian socialist Vasile Ungureanu said the report was "like a film scenario" and called for it to be rejected.

Initial findings

Marty stated in his preliminary report last year that 20 mostly European countries colluded in a global "spider's web" of secret CIA jails and flight transfers of terrorist suspects stretching from Asia to Guantanamo Bay.

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

But Marty defended the use of anonymous witnesses saying his sources needed to be protected because they would face charges of high treason in their countries if their identity were revealed.

Over 30 serving and former members of intelligence services in the US and Europe are said to have been interviewed.

Switzerland also reportedly knew of the secret prisons. A Swiss newspaper revealed that in late 2005 the country's intelligence services intercepted a fax from Egypt claiming that the US was operating a secret prison in Romania.

Earlier this year the cabinet authorised plans to launch criminal proceedings over a suspected CIA flight that took a Muslim preacher kidnapped in Italy across Swiss airspace.

IMPLICATED COUNTRIES

The 14 European countries implicated in Marty's preliminary report for colluding with the CIA extraordinary renditions programme, allowing undeclared flights or failing to investigate kidnappings of their citizens or residents: Austria, Belgium, Britain, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

CONTEXT

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator, was appointed by the Council of Europe in November 2005 to investigate claims that the CIA had set up secret prisons in eastern Europe.

In his initial report published in June 2006 he concluded that 14 European countries had colluded with the US in a "spider's web" of human rights abuses.

Marty, who is chairman of the council's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, said other countries, including Switzerland, had been involved actively or passively in the detention or transfer of unknown persons.

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

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