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U.S./EU: Scandal Over Alleged CIA Jails In Eastern Europe Continues

Prague, 30 November 2005 RFE/RL -- Eastern European governments have denied that they are hosting secret U.S. prisons for terror suspects. Reports about their supposed existence have raised an outcry in Europe and have prompted an investigation by the European Union.

The scandal began when "The Washington Post" reported on 2 November that the CIA operates a global network of detention centers -- including facilities in Eastern Europe -- to interrogate suspected Al-Qaeda fighters.

"The Washington Post" reported that the secret prisons are known within U.S. military circles as "black sites." It said the jails were set up in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Many Eastern Europe countries have denied hosting secret interrogation centers -- including Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Armenia, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Franco Frattini, the EU's commissioner for justice, freedom, and security, noted, "To begin with, the [European] Commission must state that a considerable number of member states and candidate countries have already made their own public statements that categorically deny such allegations."

Polish Defense Ministry spokesman Leszek Laszczak said that CIA interrogation centers do not exist within Poland's military bases. "At military installations on Poland's territory there were no persons detained on suspicions of terrorist activity, neither upon agreements with the U.S. government nor with any other American organizations," he said.

Senior Romanian officials also say they are not aware of any CIA facilities within their country. "The Romanian Intelligence Service does not have information that can certify the existence of such detention centers in our country," Romanian Intelligence Service spokesman Marius Bercaru said

But some European parliamentarians note that the denials from Poland and Romania leave open the possibility of past involvement.

The U.S-based group Human Rights Watch has said circumstantial evidence does suggest Polish and Romanian involvement. Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst with the organization, told RFE/RL how the group obtains information on the interrogation and transfer of Al-Qaeda suspects around the world.

"It's a combination of the information that we're gleaning from the flight logs. Also, speaking with people who have been released from Afghanistan. As you know, hundreds of people have been released -- and you can talk to folks and find that they have been picked up on a certain date and were moved, for example, from Afghanistan to Jordan. And by checking dates we can correspond that with some of the flight logs," Garlasco said.

Garlasco said two flight destinations in Eastern Europe stand out as likely sites for alleged secret CIA detention centers: one is Szymany Airport near the headquarters of Poland's intelligence service, and the other is the Mihail Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania.