Italy 'responsible' for rendition of terror suspect
24 March 2006, BRUSSELS - European lawmakers probing alleged CIA actions in Europe said Thursday that Italy had helped the US to transport terror suspects to other countries for interrogation.
24 March 2006
BRUSSELS - European lawmakers probing alleged CIA actions in Europe said Thursday that Italy had helped the US to transport terror suspects to other countries for interrogation.
"The Italian authorities facilitated the landing of the plane in Rome," said Italian Euro MP Guiusto Catania after listening to Syrian-born Canadian national Maher Arar who claims he was nabbed as a terror suspect by US officials in New York and brought to Syria where he was beaten and held in a small cell for ten months.
Arar told members of a European Parliament committee which is investigating charges of CIA abductions in Europe that he was put on a plane in New Jersey, and then taken via Washington to Rome and Jordan and Syria.
Lawyers working for Arar said they were considering suing Italian authorities for assisting the US in the extra-judicial transport of terrorism suspects, a practice termed as rendition.
He said he was sent to Syria for interrogation on suspicion of being a member of al-Qaeda, an allegation he denies. "I have nothing to do with al-Qaeda," Arar said, adding: "All I know about them I know from what I hear, read and see in the media."
The ex-detainee told parliamentarians that he has never been charged in any country, including the US, Canada and Syria.
Travelling on a Canadian passport, Arar was returning to Canada from vacation with his family in Tunisia when US officials arrested him at New York's JFK airport in September 2002.
In Syria, he was beaten and interrogated in prison but released in October 2003 under pressure from the Canadian government.
Arar is suing the US government, saying that officials who arrested him refused to tell him the reason for his detention.
US justice authorities have asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit to avoid divulging classified information, Arar's lawyers told Euro MPs.
Though shackled and partly blindfolded, he was able to follow the route on a video map in the cabin, Arar told Euro MPs who questioned him on how he could tell which route the plane was taking. Arar said he also heard it refuelling when landing in Rome.
"The responsibility for what happened to you should be laid in front of the door of those who authorized the landing in Italy," said Italian conservative MEP Jas Gawronski.
Arar called on the Canadian government to follow the EU example and also look into whether planes flying over Canada or landing at the country's airports carried terror suspects.
He said the flight to Brussels was his first trip abroad since being released, adding that he had been living "in constant fear" for the last years.
"But I felt the moral obligation to help prevent what happened to me from happening to our people," Arar said.
Continuing their inquiry, members of the EU parliamentary committee will go on a fact-finding mission to Macedonia next month to investigate charges by Lebanese-born German national Khaled al-Masri that he was kidnapped by the CIA in Macedonia and held captive in Afghanistan as a terrorism suspect in 2004.
EU lawmakers will travel to Washington in May to quiz government officials. The committee also plans talks with German secret service officials and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who headed the office of former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
The former German government, which strongly opposed the US invasion of Iraq, has denied complicity in the case of al-Masri who claims that a German interrogator had questioned him at a US prison in Kabul. Munich state prosecutors last month launched an investigation to determine whether Germany secretly helped the CIA in the abduction of al-Masri.
The parliament's committee investigating the CIA charges was set up in January. It is working in tandem with the Council of Europe inquiry and intends to present its first findings by the end of June. However, the committee has no power to sanction European governments.
Subject: German news