24th Oct 2016

Poland indicts former spymaster over CIA renditions

Seven years after the Washington Post broke the story and amid ongoing European Parliament efforts to get to the truth, Poland has become the first EU country to indict one of its officials over CIA renditions.

Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza has revealed that on 10 January this year Polish prosecutors quietly started proceedings against the one-time head of the Polish secret service and former interior minister, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski.

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  • A map of alleged CIA rendition flights put together by the Council of Europe in 2007 (Photo: Council of Europe)

He is charged with false imprisonment for his purported role in creating a clandestine jail in north-west Poland, where the CIA held and possibly tortured terrorist suspects whom it snatched from their home countries outside any legal process.

Gazeta Wyborcza noted Siemiatkowski's secret service deputy, Andrzej Derlatka, is to face similar charges. Poland's prime minister at the time of the alleged CIA operations in 2001 to 2004, Leszek Miller - currently the head of a centre-left opposition party - is also said to be in the prosecutor's crosshairs.

The media revelations do not mean Poland will lift the lid on the CIA programme, however.

The Siemiatkowski process is to be carried out behind closed doors in Krakow, south Poland. The man himself has said he will not co-operate because the accusations concern state secrets.

Investigations in recent years by MEPs, by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog the Council of Europe and by NGOs have also accused Lithuania and Romania of hosting "black sites."

A European Parliament report in 2007 said the CIA carried out almost 1,250 rendition flights in Europe using airports in 14 member states, including Denmark, Germany, Italy and Spain.

When French Green MEP Helene Flautre on Tuesday (27 March) invited officials from Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and Romania to a hearing on the subject in the EU parliament in Brussels, nobody came, however.

For its part, Germany in 2007 issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents for allegedly kidnapping German citizen Khaled el-Masri. Italy in 2009 convicted in absentia 23 US citizens on charges of kidnapping Muslim cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. None of the suspects have actually faced justice.

For their part, Lithuania and Romania continue to flat-out deny that something untoward took place on their turf.

Lithuania shut down an enquiry into the affair in 2011 citing its statute of limitations. Romania has declined to hold a probe.

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