Lithuania: Rights group calls for new CIA probe

AP News
Posted: Sep 29, 2011 9:49 AM
Lithuania: Rights group calls for new CIA probe

A human rights group called on Lithuania on Thursday to reopen its investigation into CIA prisons and the alleged torturing of terrorist suspects based on what they said was new evidence of a rendition flight to the Baltic state.

Julia Hall, an analyst with Amnesty International, said that a Boeing 727 allegedly carrying an al-Qaida suspect, Abu Zubaydah, landed in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Feb. 17, 2005, after taking off from Morocco and refueling in Jordan.

"This is a previously undiscovered flight," said Hall. "It is crucial to note that this is a flight that does not appear in the parliamentary report, and we have never heard any explanation from the prosecutor general about this flight," she said.

Two Lithuanian probes _ one by a parliamentary committee and another by the country's prosecutors _ concluded that there was no evidence that people were held in sites controlled by the CIA in the country.

In their 2009 report, Lithuanian lawmakers concluded that although the Baltic state provided two facilities to the CIA in 2002 and 2004, there was no evidence they ever held prisoners.

For their part, prosecutors closed their own probe on whether the CIA facilities held prisoners in January this year for lack of evidence.

"It begs the question if (human rights organizations) ... have been able to verify this flight, then why couldn't the prosecutor general uncover this flight with its resources and professional staff?" Hall said.

Reprieve, a human rights organization, announced earlier this year that it had provided investigators with confidential information that Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian repeatedly tortured by U.S. investigators had been secretly imprisoned in Lithuania between 2004 and 2006.

Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and taken to several CIA black sites overseas until he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay prison in 2006, where he still is. He was reportedly waterboarded 83 times while in Thailand, according to released records and former intelligence officials.

Reprive said it had supplied a list of individuals who could provide testimony about the flight from Morocco _ including CIA officials, Lithuanian handlers, and eyewitnesses.

Prosecutors said Thursday that the new information provided by the rights organizations would be properly assessed.

"We are grateful to Amnesty International for their job protecting human rights and would appreciate if more facts on alleged CIA prisons and detainees in Lithuania were presented," said Darius Raulusaitis, deputy prosecutor general.

Raulusaitis said the investigation could be reopened if the new evidence was deemed significant.

Amnesty International held a protest outside Lithuania's government building. It featured a cage with prisoners, which was decorated with some 2,000 locks with yellow labels reading "Unlock the Truth" and signatures of Lithuanians supporting calls to reopen the probe.

"This is a very important issue to all decent people in the world," said Jurate Guzeviciute, who was collecting signatures near the cage. "Secret prisons, torture, imprisonment without trial _ this is something I do not want Lithuania to be associated with."