Friday, September 28, 2007

AP: Romanian ex-minister says inquiry into alleged CIA secret prisons is 'unwelcome'

BUCHAREST. Romania-A former Romanian defense minister was quoted Thursday as saying the EU's call for further inquiries into CIA prisons allegations was unwelcome and that the European Parliament was ignoring Bucharest's denials that it permitted such prisons on Romanian soil.

Former minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, who now is a member of the European Parliament, also accused the parliament of failing to take into account the conclusions of Romanian parliamentary inquiries that found there had not been such prisons.

«The decision to ask Romania and Poland once more to investigate the secret prisons is not welcome,» Pascu said in an interview with the state news agency Rompres. He was defense minister at the time the CIA allegedly had prisons in Romania.

EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told the parliament on Wednesday that he sent a letter to Warsaw and Bucharest in July urging them to conduct in-depth judiciary inquiries into the findings by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

The council, a major human rights watchdog, made a separate report saying «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. The report, based largely on anonymous sources, said lesser detainees, who were still of «remarkable importance,» were taken to Romania.

Frattini said that while allegations relying on anonymous evidence can only be used as a basis for a judicial inquiry and not proof of any wrongdoing, the EU states had an obligation to respond.
Romania and Poland have firmly denied the allegations.

Pascu said that allegations from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe had failed to demonstrate that Romania had allowed such prisons to operate.

«These people who brought accusations weren't capable of demonstrating them,» Pascu told Rompres. «Then there is the presumption of innocence. Asking the accused to show he is innocent is a breach of the most elementary of democratic rights.

European Parliament report last year said the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had conducted more than 1,000 secret flights with stopovers on European territory since Sept. 11, 2001, some to transfer suspected terrorists to secret detention centers.

U.S. officials have not denied there have been CIA flights over Europe or flights with stopovers, but dismissed implications all had detainees on board. They have said the flights were likely to have carried intelligence experts, counterterrorist officials or forensic evidence.

Pascu said in 2005 that parts of the airport at Mihail Kogalniceanu_ one of the sites named by Human Rights Watch as having prisons _ were off-limits to Romanians when the U.S. was at the base.

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