France opens inquiry into alleged CIA flights

2nd March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 2, 2006 (AFP) - French authorities Thursday opened an official inquiry into allegations that the CIA secretly transited detained terrorism suspects through its territory.

PARIS, March 2, 2006 (AFP) - French authorities Thursday opened an official inquiry into allegations that the CIA secretly transited detained terrorism suspects through its territory.

The probe will handled by the prosecutors office in the northeastern Paris suburb of Bobigny, officials in the office said.

It aims to verify whether an aircraft linked in reports to the US Central Intelligence Agency -- a Gulfstream III jet bearing the registration number N50BH -- landed at the northern Paris airport of Bourget on July 20, 2005, and, if so, what companies or bodies might have helped it, Le Figaro newspaper said, citing a January 20 prosecutor's note.

The French inquiry -- a preliminary investigation meant to establish whether sufficient evidence exists to proceed to a criminal probe targeting individuals or entities -- was revealed one day after the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, urged member states to improve their oversight of alleged CIA intelligence activity on European soil.

Europe was "a happy hunting ground for foreign security services," the Council's Secretary-General Terry Davis said as he reported on a council probe into allegations of collusion by European countries in secret CIA anti-terrorism activities.

The CIA is alleged to have flown suspects secretly to European countries, including France, and then on to other states, some of which have reputations for torturing prisoners. Such a practice is illegal under European law.

According to a lawsuit lodged by the International Federation for Human Rights and the League of Human Rights, the identified Gulfstream jet arrived at Bourget airport from the Norwegian capital Oslo.

It was also spotted 10 times in Canada and six times at Guantanamo, the US military base in Cuba which is holding hundreds of suspects picked up in President George W. Bush's "war on terror".

The rights groups' lawsuit claims the French flight broke laws on arbitrary detention, sequestration and torture, and violated Geneva Conventions rules on the treatment of prisoners of war.

It also alleges that another suspected CIA aircraft landed at Brest, in western France. Le Figaro identified that plane as a Learjet that arrived on March 31, 2002 from Keflavik in Iceland and that subsequently left for Turkey.

"In all likelihood these planes had detainees on board, about whom we do not know whether they were taken from or transported from the Guantanamo base, or whether they are people who were purely and simply abducted and sequestered on European territory or elsewhere and transported to secret detention centre on European territory or elsewhere," the lawsuit said.

The French foreign ministry confirmed in December that two civilian flight plans corresponding to those flights had been recorded, but asserted that French authorities had no information about what or who they were carrying.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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