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EU: CIA Conducted over 1,000 Secret Terror Flights
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The US Central Intelligence Agency has conducted more than 1,000 undeclared flights over European territory since 2001 a clear violation of an international treaty, European Parliament investigators said Wednesday.

Lawmakers investigating alleged illegal CIA activities in Europe also said incidents when terror suspects were handed over to US agents did not appear to be isolated, and that the suspects often were transported by the same planes and groups of people.

EU lawmakers presented a first preliminary report on their findings, working off data provided by Eurocontrol, the EU's air safety agency, and information gathered during three months of hearings and more than 50 hours of testimony by individuals who said they were kidnapped and tortured by US agents, EU officials and rights groups.

Data showed that CIA planes made numerous stopovers on European territory that were never declared, violating an international air treaty that requires airlines to declare the route and stopovers for planes with a police mission, said Italian lawmaker Giovanni Claudio Fava, who drafted the report.

"The routes for some of these flights seem to be quite suspect. ... They are rather strange routes for flights to take. It is hard to imagine ... those stopovers were simply for providing fuel," he said.

He referred to the alleged secret transfer of an Egyptian cleric abducted from a Milan street in 2003, a German who claimed he was transferred from Macedonia to Afghanistan, and the transfer of a Canadian citizen from New York to Syria, among other suspect flights.

He said documents provided by Eurocontrol showed the plane transferring suspect Khalid al-Masri, a Kuwaiti-born German national, from Macedonia to Afghanistan in 2004 flew from Algeria to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on January 22, from Palma de Mallorca to Skopje, Macedonia on January 23, and from Skopje to Kabul via Baghdad overnight the following day.

Al-Masri told the European Parliament committee earlier this year he was arrested by US intelligence agents on the Macedonian border while on vacation in December 2003, taken to a hotel in Skopje and imprisoned there for several weeks before being flown to Kabul and put in a prison for five months. He said he was flown back to Europe in May 2004 and released in Albania.

Fava also said that according to his investigations, the groups of agents on the flights were often the same, and that it was unlikely that at least some EU governments would not have any information about the CIA operations investigated by the EU assembly.

The United States has not made any public comments on allegations of secret renditions, and the official line by EU governments and senior EU officials is that there has been no irrefutable proof of such renditions.

The parliamentary inquiry started in January, following media reports that US intelligence officers interrogated al-Qaida suspects at secret prisons in eastern Europe and transported some on secret flights that passed through Europe following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Clandestine detention centers, secret flights to or from Europe to countries where suspects could face torture, or extraordinary renditions all would breach the continent's human rights treaties.

(China Daily April 27, 2006)


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