Controversy erupted in Spain this week after allegations that the former conservative government gave the US permission to secretly fly terrorist suspects via Spain to the prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba.
Spain's El Pais newspaper sparked an uproar this week after publishing a document said to confirm that high-ranking officials within the former government of Jose Maria Aznar gave permission to the US to use military bases in Spain as a stop-over point for CIA-organized flights.
Marked “top secret,” the document appeared to verify that officials, including foreign minister Josep Pique, had given permission in 2002 to US planes taking Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo.
"The arrests of the people on board those flights were made without lawyers, without a judge's authorization," Esteban Beltran, president of the Spanish branch of Amnesty International, told Time newsmagazine. "Which means that the Spanish government colluded with illegal detentions."
Government launches internal investigation
Amnesty's claim seemed to be backed up by a separate document published sent from the Spanish section of the Permanent Hispano-North American Committee and published in Monday's El Pais. This second published report urged its recipients to consider that "some of the people transported could have European nationality" and to "weigh the legal consequences."
The conservative opposition says Zapatero's government gave the okay
The Aznar government and its Socialist successor, led by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, have long claimed ignorance of these flights, which are believed to number 13.
Current foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told the press after the initial report appeared that he had "no knowledge” of the report prior to its publication, and launched an internal investigation to locate any other related documents.
"Our government is committed to the defense of human rights," Moratinos said. "We have nothing to hide."
The investigating commission has been unable to locate the original document, El Pais said Wednesday. According to the daily, the commission believes the document disappeared prior to 2005, when Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told parliament that nothing illegal had occurred on US military flights making stopovers in Spain.
The Foreign Ministry was due to hand the results of its investigation over to the National Court, which is conducting an inquiry into alleged CIA flights via Spain.