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THE WORLD

EU Looking for Answers on Alleged Secret CIA Jails

Human rights groups also seek data on such sites. One organization says Poland and Romania are involved; both deny any link.

November 04, 2005|From Associated Press

BRUSSELS — The European Union and the continent's top human rights group said Thursday that they would investigate allegations that the CIA set up secret jails in Eastern Europe and elsewhere to interrogate terrorism suspects, and the Red Cross demanded access to any prisoners.

Human Rights Watch said it had evidence, based on flight logs, that indicated the CIA transported suspects captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania. But the two countries -- and others in the former Soviet bloc -- denied the allegations. U.S. officials have refused to confirm or deny the reports.

The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed strong interest in the assertions, first reported Wednesday in the Washington Post, that the CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important Al Qaeda captives at Soviet-era compounds.

Europe's top human rights group, the Council of Europe, said it too would investigate.

Red Cross chief spokeswoman Antonella Notari said the agency asked Washington about the allegations and requested access to the prisons if they exist. The Red Cross, which has exclusive rights to visit terrorism suspects detained at a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, long has been concerned about reports that U.S. officials were hiding detainees from Red Cross delegates.

Notari said the Red Cross, which also monitors conditions at U.S. detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq, had been unable to find some people who reportedly were detained.

In implicating Poland and Romania, Human Rights Watch examined flight logs of CIA aircraft from 2001 to 2004, said Mark Garlasco, a senior military analyst with the New York-based organization. He said the group matched the flight patterns with testimony from some of the hundreds of detainees in the war on terrorism who have been released by the United States.

"The indications are that prisoners in Afghanistan are being [taken] to facilities in Europe and other countries," said Garlasco, a former civilian intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

He would not say how the organization obtained the flight logs but said two destinations of the flights stood out as likely sites of any secret CIA detention centers: Szymany Airport in Poland, which is near the headquarters of Poland's intelligence service; and Mihail Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania.

As far as he knew, Human Rights Watch had not found and interviewed detainees who were held in any facilities in Poland and Romania.

The Romanian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying it was "not aware that such a detention center ... existed at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base" and invited journalists to see for themselves.

In Poland, an aide to President Aleksander Kwasniewski said authorities there had "no information" about such facilities.

Other European countries also issued denials.

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