Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 6 News List

European nations `aided' CIA transfers

RENDITIONS A Council of Europe report, while acknowledging it has no direct proof, says 14 European countries played an active role in transfers of prisoners by the CIA

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

The president of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, Rene van der Linden, left, and Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty give a press conference on Wednesday at the Council of Europe headquarters in Paris. Fourteen European countries colluded in or tolerated the secret transfer of terrorist suspects by the US, according to a report released by the council.

PHOTO: AFP

Fourteen European countries worked with the CIA in the secret transfer of terrorism suspects, and two of them -- Romania and Poland -- probably harbored secret CIA detention centers, the Council of Europe contends in a report issued on Wednesday.

In its 67-page report, the council, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, said it was disingenuous for Europe to portray itself as an unwilling victim of an operation led by the US because European countries played an active role in transfers orchestrated by the CIA.

The US "created this reprehensible network," the report's author, Dick Marty, a member of the Swiss parliament, said in the report. "But we also believe to have established that it is only through the intentional or grossly negligent collusion of the European partners that the `web' was able to spread over Europe."

But the report concedes that the council has no hard evidence.

The report drew swift denials. Romania rejected it as "pure speculation," while Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz dismissed it as "libel."

"These accusations are slanderous," Marcinkiewicz said. "They are not based on facts."

But he said he had heard of a few cases of secret landings by CIA planes in Poland, saying it was "natural" in the global fight against terrorism.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the report contained "absolutely nothing new," while Spain's Foreign Ministry denied that the country had participated in prisoner transfers, also known as rendition.

The report said seven countries -- Britain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey -- could be held responsible for violating prisoners' rights to "varying degrees." Others, it found, "could be held responsible for collusion -- active or passive" in the matters of secret prisons and transfers. It mentioned Poland, Romania, Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.

The report follows up similar accounts from the European Parliament and the council itself.

Tracing "a global spider web" of presumed prisons and transfer points, the report suggests that European involvement was deeper than previously surmised.

Marty, a former prosecutor, describes an elaborate and organized system for the abduction and interrogation of suspected terrorists, consisting of several landing points, where civilian and military planes either stopped or refueled on their way to and from detention centers in Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report, however, put the number of clandestine CIA flights it contends stopped on European territory since Sept. 11, 2001, at far less than the 1,000 flights previously suggested by the European Parliament.

It repeats accusations that Romania and Poland ran secret detention centers, saying there is "now a preponderance of indications" that the centers existed. It also contends that Britain gave the CIA information about its citizens and residents, which resulted in their being detained and moved to places where they were possibly tortured.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said in response to a question at a news briefing on Wednesday that "the United States does not condone torture, does not practice torture."

"Furthermore," he said, "we will not agree to send anybody to a nation or place that practices torture."

"It's also important to remember again that international cooperation in the war on terror is essential for winning, and rendition is not something that began with this administration, and it's certainly going to be practiced, I'm sure, in the future," he said.

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