msnbc.com news services
updated 4/26/2006 8:42:09 AM ET 2006-04-26T12:42:09

The CIA has conducted more than 1,000 undeclared flights over European territory since 2001 — a clear violation of an international treaty, European Parliament investigators said Wednesday.

Lawmakers investigating alleged illegal CIA activities in Europe also backed allegations that the spy service had kidnapped and illegally detained terror suspects on EU territory and flown them to countries that used torture.

“The CIA has, on several occasions, clearly been responsible for kidnapping and illegally detaining alleged terrorists on the territory of member states, as well as for extraordinary renditions,” Italian lawmaker Claudio Fava said in his first interim report of the European Parliament’s probe.

The investigation began after a Washington Post report last November that the CIA had run secret rendition flights and secret prisons in Eastern Europe for al-Qaida suspects.

Earlier this month the Council of Europe, a human rights organization, said at least one European state had admitted to handing over terrorism suspects to foreign agents, and that there was evidence pointing to the existence of secret flights.

After hearing several of the alleged victims of kidnapping and renditions, the EU lawmakers found no “smoking gun” but came to the same conclusions.

Fava said it was likely several European governments were aware of the CIA activities, specifically pointing at Italy, Sweden and Bosnia.

Flight information
Fava said laws in the EU concerning secret services and monitoring of air space and foreign aircraft were insufficient.

“Over 1,000 flights operated by the CIA transited through our territory,” with Spain being the only EU country to ask questions about these flights, Fava told a news conference, quoting figures produced by Amnesty International.

He added that his assertions on CIA flights came from cross-checking data given by Eurocontrol, Europe’s civil and military air safety navigation organization, with media reports and accounts by alleged victims.

Data showed that CIA planes made numerous stopovers on European territory that were never declared, violating an international air treaty that requires airlines to declare the route and stopovers for planes with a police mission, Fava said.

“The routes for some of these flights seem to be quite suspect. ... They are rather strange routes for flights to take. It is hard to imagine ... those stopovers were simply for providing fuel,” he said.

Specific cases
Fava’s report criticizes Sweden for handing over in 2001 two Egyptian terrorism suspects to U.S. agents, who flew them to Egypt. Human Rights Watch said there is credible evidence they were later tortured.

He also criticized Bosnia for handing over six men of Algerian origin to the CIA.

“These men have been taken illegally to Guantanamo, where they have been since January 2002,” Stephen Oleskey, their lawyer who testified on Tuesday before the EU lawmakers, told Reuters in reference to the U.S. prison camp in Cuba.

EU lawmakers will go to Macedonia later this week to probe the arrest of German citizen Khaled el-Masri in 2003.

Another group of lawmakers will head to Washington in early May, seeking meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and CIA chief Porter Goss.

Fava said the committee would later investigate allegations of secret CIA detention centers in Europe.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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