April 12, 2006

European state admits handed over terror suspects

By Gilbert Reilhac

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - At least one European state
has admitted to handing over terrorism suspects to foreign
agents, the Council of Europe said on Wednesday citing a clear
breach of the country's human rights duties.

Council Secretary General Terry Davis refused to say which
of the 46 members had secretly transferred suspects and said it
was up to national authorities or the European Court of Human
Rights to take action.

Last November, Davis gave member states a three-month
deadline to hand over information relating to suspicions that
the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had run a network of
secret jails in Europe for al Qaeda suspects.

He also asked them to reveal any details they had about
secret CIA flights across Europe in which prisoners are alleged
to have been transferred to jails in third countries where they
faced torture and other abuses, a process known as rendition.

"I am now in position to say that we no longer need to
speak about 'alleged' cases of rendition," Davis told a news
conference in the eastern French city of Strasbourg where the
human rights watchdog is based.

"I am not in a position to go into any further detail at
the moment, but we have received official acknowledgment of
'handing over' individuals to foreign officials" in ways that
flouted European Convention on Human Rights and other legal

Davis spokesman Matjas Gruden said it was not for the
council to take action.

"We are not looking for the guilty parties," he said.

The council had decided not to name the state that had
admitted to wrongdoing in isolation, he said, but "everything
will be very transparent. We will publish the responses" once
all responses have been collated over the next two weeks.

Italian and German prosecutors are investigating the case
of an Egyptian man they believe was snatched on a Milan street
by a team of CIA agents in February 2003 and flown via Germany
to Egypt, where he later said he was tortured.

A German national, Khaled el-Masri, is suing the former
head of the CIA over his alleged rendition from Macedonia to
Afghanistan, where he says the United States held him in jail
for months as a terrorist suspect in 2004. German prosecutors
are also probing that case.

And in Sweden, a parliamentary ombudsman has criticized the
security services over the expulsion of two Egyptian terrorism
suspects who were handed over to U.S. agents and flown home
aboard a U.S. government-leased plane in 2001.

(Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan in Berlin)