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CIA 'torture trips' using city airport

GARETH EDWARDS / The Scotsman | November 26 2005

THE CIA is using Edinburgh Airport as a refuelling stop for "torture" flights carrying terror suspects.

The secret flights are suspected of carrying Islamic militants from the US to Eastern European countries where torture can be used legally.

Police have now been urged to investigate whether any crimes have been committed in Edinburgh after it emerged 14 of the "rendition" flights stopped in the Capital over the last four years.

Lothians Green MSP Mark Ballard said today: "I am sure that many people in Edinburgh will be revolted that such abuses of human rights could be taking place right in their own backyard."

It had long been known that both Prestwick and Glasgow had been used as a pit-stop for the flights, but now Edinburgh, as well as RAF Leuchars, Inverness and Wick have been linked to the scandal.

Mr Ballard has written to Lothian and Borders Police outlining his concerns that crimes may have been committed in Scottish airspace or on the ground in Edinburgh, and asking the Chief Constable to investigate.

Under UN conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights, torture, including acts which aid or abet torture, is illegal.

Holyrood was told yesterday that the American government did not deny flying prisoners to Eastern Europe where they could employ what were described as aggressive interrogation techniques which are not allowed in the US.

The figures provided by the American authorities stated that Prestwick and Glasgow had been used for refuelling rendition flights 149 times since 2001, with RAF Leuchars used six times, Inverness five times and Wick twice.

It is not clear whether Lothian and Borders Police will have to investigate the complaint regarding Edinburgh Airport, however, and no-one from the police was available for comment.

Strathclyde Police refused to investigate the flights in Glasgow as they did not believe there was enough evidence of a criminal act being committed in Scotland.

However, the Greens argued that police need only have "reasonable suspicion" that a crime has been committed.

And they said this was provided by the documents provided by the US government detailing the many rendition flights which have stopped at Scottish airports.

Mr Ballard said: "Such activities are illegal and Lothians and Borders Police have a duty to uphold the law, so we have asked them to investigate the use of Edinburgh Airport by torture flights as a matter of urgency.

"I believe there is a very real risk that individuals' human rights are being violated within our jurisdiction and that we have a duty to act. I'm sure the vast majority of Scots, including Edinburgh residents, expect our police to ensure that Scotland plays no part in torture."

A former British ambassador said today that police had full power to board the flights.

Craig Murray, who reigned from the Foreign Office over the Government's role in the war on terror, said officers had a "duty" to intervene.

"If the planes were suspected of carrying narcotics, as opposed to kidnapped human beings facing interrogation under torture, there is no doubt that the police would intercept these flights the minute they touched down in the UK."

Mr Murray said he believed the flights were refuelling in Scotland because the UK was afraid of losing access to US intelligence.

A spokesman for BAA Scotland said: "As an airport we are not allowed to turn away any flight, unless the airport is full."

The issue has already been taken up at Westminster by Sir Menzies Campbell, who has tabled a series of questions about planes using RAF bases, such as Northolt, in north London. He says the UK should have no part in the "illegal and immoral" torture flights.

Ministry of Defence sources have insisted that American flights can land anywhere in the UK if they have obtained diplomatic clearance. Officials have no way of knowing who or what was on those flights




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