Friday, June 29, 2007

Romanian lawmakers pull out of Council of Europe over CIA secret prison allegations

Thursday, June 28, 2007

STRASBOURG, France: Romanian lawmakers, critical of a Swiss investigator' s report that said Bucharest hosted CIA secret prisons, pulled out of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly Thursday until he visits Romania to prove his claims.

Swiss Sen. Dick Marty, leading an inquiry on behalf of the human rights watchdog, said in a report earlier this month that the CIA ran secret prisons in Poland and Romania — with the knowledge of several local politicians — to interrogate key terror suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report was approved Wednesday by the parliamentary assembly, a body comprising lawmakers from the human rights watchdog's 47 member states, which meets four times a year to debate human rights issues and social and political trends in Europe.

Romanian and Polish parliamentarians sharply criticized Marty in a debate Wednesday, saying he failed to provide a single piece of hard evidence to back up his report, which was based largely on information he had gathered from unnamed CIA operatives.

"The Romanian parliament's delegation has decided to take no further part in the assembly's activities until (Dick Marty) personally visits Romania to verify the so-called information and proof forming the basis for the accusation that the country was involved in hosting secret detention centers," the 10-member delegation said in a statement.

The lawmakers said they were shocked by Marty's refusal to accept repeated invitations to visit Romania and carry out field visits at the site where media reports said the jail was located.

Marty traveled to Bucharest in 2005, at the beginning of his investigation, but turned down recent invitations by the Romanian authorities, saying he did not want to be manipulated by them. His assistant has visited Romania twice, said Mihaela Draghici, an official with the Romanian delegation to the parliamentary assembly.

Marty was asked by the Council of Europe to investigate CIA activities on the continent after media reports of secret prisons violating Europe's human rights standards emerged two years ago.

The Romanian pullout is a symbolic gesture, as the parliamentary assembly has no executive powers.

"We have cooperated with Mr. Marty's team, he received all the information he had asked for. His assistant was able to see anyone he wanted in Romania, there were no restrictions, " said Draghici, adding it was the first time a delegation has withdrawn from the assembly.

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