April 8, 2006

Croatia not told of US rendition flights: president

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The United States, accused by
Amnesty International of twice using Croatia as a stopover
point for terrorism suspects, never informed the government
about such landings, Croatia's president said on Saturday.

"We wish to know why our territory is used, if it is used,"
Croatian President Stjepan Mesic told Reuters during a visit to
San Francisco.

"A part of my constitutional powers is also the appointment
of the heads of the intelligence services, so the government
and myself have information about the work of the intelligence
services," he said in an interview at his hotel.

"We have not received any information."

In a report this week, Amnesty International said the
United States twice used the airport near Dubrovnik, a popular
tourist gateway to the Adriatic Coast, as a transfer point for
terrorism suspects.

The Council of Europe and a European Parliament committee
are both investigating reports that the CIA ran secret prisons
for terrorist suspects in Eastern Europe.

The Amnesty report alleges the U.S. "rendition" flights
passed through airports in a wide variety of countries,
including Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain and Britain.

"Renditions involve multiple layers of human rights
violations," the report said.

"Most victims of rendition were arrested and detained
illegally in the first place: some were abducted; others were
denied access to any legal process, including the ability to
challenge the decision to transfer them because of the risk of

The human rights organization quoted three men freed from
jail in Yemen who said they had been held in a secret U.S.
prison in Eastern Europe.

Croatia has backed the U.S. war on terrorism and has a
small number of troops in Afghanistan.

Mesic, spending three days in San Francisco after a trip to
South Korea, said it would be possible for an aircraft to
deceive airport authorities about the passenger manifest.

"If any aircraft stops over for reasons that are not known
to me such as technical reasons and stays for a while at an
airport, we cannot know who the passengers are, or where they
are bound for," said Mesic, who has been president since 2000.