EU state admits it handed over terrorism suspects

AT least one European state has admitted to handing over terrorism suspects to foreign agents, the Council of Europe said yesterday, citing a breach of the country’s human rights duties.

Council Secretary General Terry Davis refused to say which of the 46 members had secretly transferred suspects and said it was up to national authorities or the European Court of Human Rights to take action.

Last November, Mr Davis gave member states a three-month deadline to hand over information relating to suspicions that the US Central Intelligence Agency had run a network of secret jails in Europe for al-Qaida suspects. He also asked them to reveal details they had about secret CIA flights across Europe in which prisoners are alleged to have been transferred to jails in third countries where they faced torture and abuses, a process known as rendition. “I am now in position to say that we no longer need to speak about ‘alleged’ cases of rendition,” Mr Davis told a news conference in the eastern French city of Strasbourg where the human rights watchdog is based.

“I am not in a position to go into any further detail at the moment, but we have received official acknowledgment of ‘handing over’ individuals to foreign officials” in ways that flouted the European Convention on Human Rights and other legal standards.

Mr Davis’s spokesman Matjas Gruden said it was not for the council to take action.

“We are not looking for the guilty parties,” he said.

The council had decided not to name the state that had admitted to wrongdoing in isolation, he said, but “everything will be very transparent. We will publish the responses” once all responses have been collated over the next two weeks.

Italian and German prosecutors are investigating the case of an Egyptian man they believe was snatched on a Milan street by a team of CIA agents in February 2003 and flown via Germany to Egypt, where he later said he was tortured.

A German national, Khaled el-Masri, is suing the former head of the CIA over his alleged rendition from Macedonia to Afghanistan, where he says the US held him in jail for months as a terrorist suspect in 2004. German prosecutors are probing that case.

In Sweden, a parliamentary ombudsman has criticised the security services over the expulsion of two Egyptian terrorism suspects who were handed over to US agents and flown home aboard a US government-leased plane in 2001.

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