Ukraine link to CIA secret prisons probed

EU says airstrip, base used in extraordinary renditions

By JAN SLIVA
ASSOCIATED PRESS

An EU investigator said Wednesday he has evidence to suggest that a Ukrainian airstrip was used by CIA-operated planes involved in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program.

Giovanni Fava said he was also looking into possible CIA use of a military facility at a Ukrainian base. Fava, an Italian member of the European Parliament, drafted a report last year identifying more than 1,000 secret CIA flights with stopovers on European territory since 2001. He identified several of them as being used to transfer terror suspects.

Ukraine Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko, in a telephone interview, dismissed Fava’s statements on the use of Ukrainian airspace by CIA planes and the use of a military base, calling them “nonsense.” He declined further comment.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield declined to comment directly on the charges regarding Ukraine and extraordinary renditions — moving terrorism suspects from country to country.

“Separate and apart from these allegations, there are several points I would make about renditions,” he said. “They have been conducted within the law. They have been carried out responsibly and with purpose.”

Mansfield said the practice had disrupted potential attacks and allowed the United States and its allies to gain intelligence on terrorists.

In a report earlier this year, Swiss investigator Dick Marty accused the CIA of running secret prisons in Poland and Romania to interrogate key terror suspects. He said prisoners were typically shackled and handcuffed, kept naked and in isolation.

The CIA, while stopping short of a denial, said the report was “distorted.” Poland and Romania vehemently denied the charges.

John Bellinger, legal adviser to the U.S. secretary of state, said that while there have been CIA flights over Europe or flights with stopovers, they may have simply carried intelligence experts, counterterrorist officials or forensic evidence.

Fava and fellow Italian EU lawmaker Giulietto Chiesa cited what they said was a secret Ukrainian government document they had seen authorizing the landing of a CIA-operated Gulfstream jet plane five times in August 2005.

They said the plane was earlier used in the transfer of Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who was abducted from a street in Milan, Italy, before being flown to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany and finally moved to Egypt.

“The plane was consistently used by the CIA,” Fava told a news conference.