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Europe

European Country Admits to Handing Over Terror Suspects

The Council of Europe has said that at least one European country has admitted to handing over terrorism suspects to foreign agents. It's not naming names, but some suspect the country is Sweden.

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Germany has a list of flights and landings by planes suspected of being used by the CIA

Citing a clear breach of the country's human rights duties, the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, declined to name the country in question, but said the nation had secretly transferred suspects. The body said it was up to national authorities or the European Court of Human Rights to act.

"We have received official acknowledgement of handing over' individuals to foreign officials" in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Council General Secretary Terry Davis said. "I am now in position to say that we no longer need to speak about 'alleged' cases of rendition," he added, referring to the process in which prisoners are transferred to jails in third countries where they faced torture and other abuses.

Terry Davis, neuer Generalsekretär des Europarates

Terry Davis

In November, Davis imposed a three-month deadline on the Council's 46 member states to provide information relating to suspicions that the American CIA has run a network of secret jails in Europe for al Qaeda suspects.

The council decided not to name the state that had admitted to the wrongdoing, Davis' spokesman Matjas Gruden told Reuters. But "everything will be very transparent. We will publish the responses" once the responses have been collated over the next two weeks.

Sweden guilty party?

Some say the country in question might be Sweden, where security services have come under criticism for the expulsion of two Egyptian terrorism suspects who were then handed over to US agents and flown home aboard a US government-leased aircraft in 2001. The organization Human Rights Watch has said there is credible evidence that the two were later tortured.

While the Swedish government has thus far declined to comment, opposition politician Cecilia Wilkstrom told Reuters. "I would put some money on Sweden."

CIA Flug nach Rumänien

A US air force C130 parked on a Romanian airfield

Sarah Ludford, a British Liberal Democratic member of the European Parliament committee which is investigating CIA prisons, agreed that Sweden was a strong possibility.

She added that that parliamentary committee was making headway in its own investigation. It is expected to release an interim draft report next month.

"We'll say there is enough material to go on investigating and to keep up the pressure," she told Reuters.

A Washington Post article last November first made the explosive accusations that the CIA ran secret prisons in eastern Europe for al Qaeda suspects, but after several months the issue largely faded from view. These new developments have put it in the headlines again.

German investigation

A German parliamentary inquiry will begin work on May 11, examining the case of German citizen Khaled al-Masri, who was arrested at the end of 2003 and flown to Afghanistan where he was held for months as a terrorist suspect by the US. Al-Masri was later released without charge and is now suing the former head of the CIA.

Khaled el Masri in Straßburg

Khalid al-Masri

The German committee is also expected to look into the use of German airports for dozens of unexplained CIA flights.

The US acknowledges it has used secret prison transfers, but denies that it "outsources torture."

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