European courts may challenge US terror renditions
By Lisbeth Kirk
Three European countries are considering judicial inquiries into potential criminal offences related to CIA operations in Europe.
The cases have been underway for some time, but gained increasing attention after recent press reports that the US intelligence agency, the CIA, has held suspects in covert detention centres in eastern Europe.
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Already in March, a judge from the Spanish island of Majorca opened a criminal investigation after a local newspaper reported a series of visits to the island's international airport by planes known to regularly operate for the CIA.
The Spanish national court will now be asked to consider whether the CIA was routing planes carrying terror suspects through Majorca as part of its so-called rendition program, involving secret kidnappings of terror suspects, reports the New York Times.
Italy and Germany are also considering judicial inquiries into potential criminal offences related to CIA operations in Europe.
The Bush administration could see a formal request from Italy to extradite 22 past and present CIA operatives accused by a Milan prosecutor and judge of kidnapping a radical imam nearly three years ago.
Italian justice minister Roberto Castelli said after a visit to Washington on Thursday that he would see the legal papers and then decide whether to forward the extradition request to the US.
In Germany, a separate investigation has been opened into the February 2003 kidnapping of an imam known as Abu Omar.
The man was picked up in Milan, taken to an Italian air base then put aboard a military flight to Germany and finally ended up in Cairo.
The Aviano air base in Italy and the Ramstein air base in Germany are both home to US air force units.
The German prosecutor, Eberhard Bayer, whose district includes the Ramstein base, is now studying the evidence before deciding whether a crime was committed.
Today (14 November) members of the European Parliament will debate the reports of secret CIA detention camps in Europe, following a statement from the European Commission.
Last week the Council of Europe in Strasbourg appointed Swiss liberal politician Dick Marty to examine the existence of alleged secret American detention centres for terror suspects.
The United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, might also launch an investigation.
The Austrian said last week that if reports of the CIA's activities proved correct, then the agency was engaged in a "systematic practice of enforced disappearance," according to the New York Times.