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NGOs call on Lithuania to resume CIA prison investigation

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„Reuters“/„Scanpix“ nuotr. / CIA
Šaltinis: BNS
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International non-governmental organizations on Thursday called on Lithuania to reopen a probe into alleged detention of suspected terrorists in the country under the United States' Extraordinary Rendition and Detention Program, and say they have evidence about another person who was allegedly kept in detention in Lithuania.

At a press conference in Vilnius, human rights activists urged government representatives and prosecutors to investigate allegations that Mustafa al-Hawsani, currently a Guantanamo prisoner, was illegally kept in detention in Lithuania in 2004-2006.

Amnesty International claims that Lithuania, currently holding the EU presidency, should set an example for other European countries instead of indulging the United States.

"As Lithuania holds the presidency of the European Union, we are looking to it to lead the example and to do utmost to uncover the truth and provide justice to victims," Amnesty International representative Natacha Kazatchkine told journalists.

Sarah Fulton of organization Redress said it was "highly likely" that Saudi Arabian citizen al Hawsani, detained in Pakistan in 2003 and now facing death penalty, had been kept in detention in Lithuania.

In her words, the man was taken to Guantanamo in September 2003 with at least three other suspects. In March 2004, he was flown to Morocco. According to Fulton, Lithuania was singled out as a further destination having evaluated flight data and presumed movement of other suspects.

"We have concluded that is highly likely that Mr. al Hawsani was in Lithuania," Fulton said.

"Mr. al Hawsawi is now facing a military commission trial in Guantanamo bay with four others for his alleged involvement in 9/11 attacks. If convicted, the US authorities is seeking the death penalty," Fulton said in Vilnius.

The NGOs did not rule out that the proven human rights violations could help the suspects escape death sentences in the US.

"In the sentencing phase defense council for all these men can come forward with the information that could affect the sentence," said Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.

Al-Hawsani is the second suspected terrorism who claims to have been detained in Lithuania. Earlier, Palestinian Abu Zubaydah lodged a complaint over his alleged detention in Lithuania. His case has been referred to the European Court of Human Rights.

During a parliamentary investigation in late 2009, two locations were identified in and near Vilnius where premises might have been equipped for detention of people.

The parliamentary probe also revealed that CIA-related planes entered Lithuania's airspace in 2003-2006 several times. The investigations did not, however, discover any proof that suspected terrorists were actually brought to Lithuania.

Following the conclusions, prosecutors opened a separate probe, which was closed in January 2011.

The position of the Vilnius-based Human Rights Monitoring Institute is that "the investigation was not thorough and was terminated too early and, furthermore, had a number of shortcomings," Meta Adutavičiūtė, spokeswoman for the institute, told journalists on Thursday.

She urged Lithuania's law-enforcement to turn to US institutions with a request to declassify the testimony of the suspects.

Lithuania's former state leaders and security chiefs deny that CIA prisons might have been set up in Lithuania.

Lithuanian MP: Appeal to the US, not Lithuania

The call of international non-governmental organizations upon Lithuanian prosecutors to resume the investigation is based on interpretations rather than facts, says Lithuanian MP Arvydas Anušauskas, former chairman of the parliamentary National Security and Defense Committee.

Anušauskas, who headed the 2009 parliamentary probe of the CIA prison allegations, told BNS on Thursday that the factual information that would lead to a conclusion on actual detention of suspected terrorists in Lithuania is currently in the United States.

"In this situation, I can say that there is data not about just one but about several individuals who are currently held in custody in Guantanamo and are charged with organizing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Based on our parliamentary investigation, the non-governmental organizations and lawyers of the suspects provide rather vague proposals that Lithuania should look into, without factual materials," Anušauskas said.

"You know, the proposal is to examine the interpretation of the information we have made publicly available. Interpretations are not enough, we need facts. And the factual information is in the hands of the United States Department of Justice. In this case, the answer is unambiguous, and if they really want to achieve results, they should not appeal to Lithuania, they should appeal to the US, which has full information in their possession," the MP said.

"I think we will receive an appeal on behalf of the third and the fourth detainee. This is probably not the end," he said.

BNS
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