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Investigator: CIA sent prisoners in Europe to Africa

Jamey Keaten Associated Press Dec. 14, 2005 12:00 AM

PARIS - A European investigator said Tuesday that he has found mounting indications the United States illegally held detainees in Europe but then hurriedly shipped out the last ones to North Africa a month ago when word leaked out.

Dick Marty, a Swiss senator looking into claims the CIA operated secret prisons in Europe, said an ongoing, monthlong investigation unearthed "clues" that Poland and Romania were implicated, perhaps unwittingly.

Both countries have denied any involvement and Marty said he believes no prisoners are now being held by the United States in Europe.

"To my knowledge, those detainees were moved about a month ago, maybe a little more," he told reporters after briefing the legal committee of the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog. "They were moved to North Africa."

Asked to which country detainees might have been moved, he said, "I would imagine that it would be Morocco - up to you to confirm it."

Moroccan government spokesman Nabil Benabdellah denied any connection to such prisons when reports of the transfers surfaced last week.

"We have nothing to do with, and we have no knowledge about this subject," he said.

The Washington Post first reported the reputed existence of secret prisons in eastern Europe and other countries on Nov. 2. The newspaper did not name the countries, but the New York-based Human Rights Watch said it had evidence indicating the CIA transported suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania. The conclusion was based on an analysis of flight logs of CIA aircraft from 2001 to 2004 obtained by the group.

European officials say such prisons violate the continent's human rights principles.

Marty told the council's legal committee information gathered so far "reinforced the credibility of the allegations concerning the transfer and temporary detention of individuals, without any judicial involvement, in European countries."

"Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards," he said. Marty was expected to present a full report to the council's parliamentary assembly in January.

The investigator told reporters he could not offer proof that secret detention centers existed. But he cited two suspected cases of detainees held by U.S. authorities in Europe as signs that suspects were held at least temporarily.

The cases cited were the reputed February 2003 kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr by the CIA in Milan, Italy; and claims by Khaled al-Masri, a Lebanese-born German, that the agency took him to Afghanistan and tortured him after mistakenly identifying him as being linked to al-Qaida. Masri said he was released in 2004.