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Torture shame Britain helped CIA fly terror suspects to secret prison

UK Daily Mail | June 9, 2007

Britain helped the CIA fly terror suspects to secret torture centres, it has emerged.

Dramatic details of the agency's post-9/11 "extraordinary rendition" programme were revealed in a damning dossier from the Council of Europe human rights organisation.

On the day Tony Blair lectured Vladimir Putin about human rights, democracy and the Litvinenko murder, his own government was accused of colluding in breathtaking lawbreaking. The report said the CIA ran secret prisons in Poland and Romania for two years. Britain provided logistical support by letting the agency's aircraft use UK civilian and military airports dozens of times.

The British Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia was also a "black site" used to process "ghost" prisoners whose locations were kept secret.

The Council of Europe dossier, compiled by Swiss senator Dick Marty, said the jails in Poland and Romania operated with the full knowledge of the countries' presidents and defence ministers.

It said the U.S., with Britain's help, had been pursuing a war on terror without rules.

The CIA is accused of setting up the secret centres so it could use interrogation techniques amounting to torture which are illegal in the U.S. They include waterboarding. where a suspect is strapped to an inclined board with his head at the lower end, blindfolded and then either "dunked" into a bath or has water poured over his face so he believes he is drowning.

The technique is said to have been used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been named as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The report includes details of further harsh treatment meted out by masked guards.

It included months of solitary confinement, constant shackling in cramped cells, poor food, being kept naked for weeks and exposure to extremes of heat or cold and noise to prevent sleep.

In Poland, the report says, the CIA flights used the northern airport of Szymany and were met at the end of the runway out of sight of terminal buildings by Americans in vans. They drove through pine forest to the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence base.

Mr Marty, a former prosecutor, says the conclusions of his 19-month inquiry immediately denied by Polpreliminaryish and Romanian officials are based on interviews with former CIA operatives. He said collaboration by U.S. allies was critical to the detention programme.

The report says: "While it is likely that very few people in the countries concerned, including in the governments themselves, knew of the existence of the centres, we have sufficient grounds to declare that the highest state authorities were aware of the CIA's illegal activities."

Allowing either clandestine prisons or secret CIA flights to countries where suspects could face torture would be breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights. In a report last year, Mr Marty said 20 countries colluded in a "global spider's web" of secret CIA jails and prisoner transfers.

Britain is said to have let CIA aircraft use airports but officials here have denied they knew any "ghost" prisoners were on the flights.

Some flights are believed to have refuelled at Prestwick in Scotland.

Few details of what is alleged to have taken place in Diego Garcia were given in the report.

But Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of the UK charity and human rights group Reprieve, accused the Blair government of deliberately ignoring "clear proof that British territory has been used to support this illegal, repugnant system of kidnap and torture".

He added: "Today's report creates an imperative for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to act. It is vital that we find out just how many prisoners passed through British territory. Were they tortured? Where are they today? Somebody needs to be held publicly accountable for this complete violation of human rights and the law."

The UK's Association of Chief Police Officers held an 18-month inquiry into the allegations of secret flights, but confirmed that it had found no evidence.

President Bush admitted last September that the CIA had run detention centres abroad but named no countries.

A CIA spokesman said he had not yet seen the report. He added: "Europe has been the source of grossly inaccurate allegations about the CIA and counter-terrorism. People should remember that Europeans have benefited from the agency's bold, lawful work to disrupt terrorist plots."

As the report was issued, 26 Americans, almost all suspected CIA agents, went on trial in their absence in Italy, accused of kidnapping a Muslim man in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt.

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