- Title: VARIOUS: Spain may have been CIA flight stopover says first government minister
- Date: 16th September 2006
- Summary: (EU) GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA (FILE) (REUTERS) GUANTANAMO BAY PRISON GUARD TOWER PRISONER IN ORANGE OVERALLS VARIOUS PRISONERS IN WHITE OVERALLS BEING LED AROUND BY GUARDS CAMP DELTA SIGN PRISONER WALKING AROUND
- Reuters ID: LVA3SNROP7HS4J5S1W7EAXT52J2Q
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- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,International Relations
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- Story Text: Spain may have been a stopover for secret CIA flights but there is no evidence that violations of international law were committed on its soil, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Thursday (September 14).
He was the first minister to testify before a European Parliament panel investigating allegations that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency ran secret prisons for terrorism suspects in Europe and flew suspects to states where they could be tortured.
Moratinos said the American authorities had assured Spain that there had been no secret passengers aboard planes transiting in Spain. The Spanish intelligence service have found no evidence of violation or crime during CIA stopovers, he said.
Nevertheless, Spanish authorities were investigating flights which could have been used to detain or fly prisoners before or after the stopover in Spain, he said.
He mentioned a Guantanamo - Misurata (Libya) - Palma de Majorca - Washington flight on Sept 15, 2004 as being one of these suspicious flights.
Moratinos also cited a Guantanamo - Tenerife - Constanza - Bucharest - Casablanca - Rabat - Washington flight which he said stayed 2 hours 29 minutes in Tenerife on April 12, 2004. He said there were doubts because of the very short time it spent in Tenerife and because of its flight route.
"We can conclude that there are two categories of flights worthy of attention and more detailed attention. First of all flights about which we do not yet have sufficient information and which may give rise to suspicion because of the very brief time they stayed in the country or where they came from or where they were bound for. You can include in this category a flight whose complete itinerary was Guantanamo-Teneriffe where it only spent 2 hours and 29 minutes on the 12th of April 2004, then going on to Constanza, Bucharest, Casablanca, Rabat, Washington," Moratinos said.
Moratinos said he would ask EU foreign ministers meeting Friday (September 15) in Brussels to discuss and take a position on the allegation of CIA secret flights. He said control of flights must be improved to ensure that there are no violations.
"Its important to bear in mind that after their stop over in Spanish territories such flights may have been used in connection with illegal transfer or abduction of prisoners and these flights are being investigated by Spanish authorities because even if there is no evidence that any crimes were committed on Spanish territory some crime subject to universal jurisdiction may have occurred elsewhere," Moratinos said.
He added that 66 suspect flights had made stops in Spain but insisted the US government had assured Spain nothing illegal had taken place.
This led several MEPs to question Moratinos as to the US definition of legality. Lambridinis said the US did not consider rendition or secret prisons as illegal.
U.S. President George W. Bush confirmed last week that the CIA had run secret detention centres abroad where terrorism suspects had been interrogated, but he named no country.
CIA Committee raporteur, Claudio Fava called on Moratinos to urge the European Council to show more teeth and condemn Bush and the CIA prisons.
" I'd like to know why our European Council has not been able to find the courage to firmly condemn what's happened. Perhaps you could give us a hand, break this silence. Its rather embarrassing that European institutions remain so mum (silent). Perhaps you can break that wall of silence," said Fava.
CIA Committee Vice Chair Baroness Ludford referred to a report by human rights watchdog Council of Europe's investigator Dick Marty which said earlier this year that the Spanish airport of Palma de Majorca was one of eight international "staging points" for secret prisoner transfers.
A Spanish judge opened an investigation in June to determine whether suspects on secret CIA flights which touched down in Majorca were held illegally or tortured, court officials said at the time.
"I want to probe your use of the term no illegal acts have taken place on Spanish territory and you said there was not only no evidence of abductions or prisons but indeed no illegal act. But surely the evidence points to Palma being used as a staging post for preparing CIA rendition operation and surely that is illegal under European and international and human rights law," Ludford said.
Spain's relations with the United States have been frosty since Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists ousted Jose Maria Aznar's conservatives in a 2004 upset and kept an election promise to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq.
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