Friday, December 10, 2010

PORTUGAL INSIGHT

CIA illegal secret flights saga
Shame and possible prosecutions loom as the saga of the CIA's so-called extraordinary rendition flights through Portugal rumbles on.
Despite official denials, new allegations have been made that Portugal helped the United States secretly transfer detainees who ended up being tortured at the notorious Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba.
It is claimed that the US requested, and was granted, permission for CIA flights carrying terrorist suspects to pass through Portuguese airspace. If true, this would be in violation of supposedly sacrosanct international charters and conventions.
In the latest development, a former Guantanamo inmate, Omar Deghayes, has claimed that some ex-prisoners are planning to sue the Portuguese authorities. Omar Deghayes, a 41-year-old Libyan, spent more than five years at Guantanamo Bay after being arrested in Pakistan. He was released in 2008, reportedly due to pressure from the British government.
An official Portuguese investigation into reports of CIA extraordinary rendition flights found no evidence of Portuguese wrong-doing. Suspicion persists that the US State Department leant on Portugal to stifle the investigation.

The Portuguese Attorney General's Office has declared that the investigation will only be reopened if new, credible and relevant facts come to light.

This announcement follows the release last week by Wikileaks of a cable indicating that the Portuguese government was asked to allow use of facilities in the Azores in the transportation of alleged terrorists.

The cable marked “secret” was sent from the US Embassy in Lisbon in October 2006, during the Bush administration. It drew attention to the likely political impact on Portugal if evidence demonstrating complicity in the secret CIA flights were to be made public.

Prime Minister José Sócrates, told parliament in 2008 that no member of his left-of-centre Socialist government (PS) had been asked for, or had granted, permission for extraordinary rendition flights through Portuguese airspace.

There has been much speculation that a number of such flights took place between 2002 and 2005, before the Socialists took office, during the last administration of the right-of-centre Social Democrats (PSD).

For example, a Gulfstream IV aircraft was reportedly flown from the airport on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores to Guantanamo Bay in November 2003. Doubts have been cast on 34 other ostensibly commercial flights through Portuguese airspace between 2002 and 2005.

A European parliamentary investigation in 2007 reported that the CIA had used European airspace for more than 1,200 flights between 2001 and 2005. Most European MPs endorsed the report's conclusion that some member states had “turned a blind eye” to the flights.

The committee that carried out the investigation criticised the “lack of co-operation from many member states” in their inquiries.

And so it goes on..... The picture is deliberately fuzzy. Full disclosure is awaited.

Like them or loath them, Wikileaks will probably shed more damning light on Portugal's involvement in this seemingly shameful saga if further US Lisbon Embassy cables are made public.

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