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Reports of Secret Prisons Cause Concern in Europe

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And in a moment, we'll hear what US officials are saying about the secret prisons. First, NPR's Rachel Martin has been tracking the response in Europe.

RACHEL MARTIN reporting:

There's been mounting concern in Europe since 2001 over the CIA's use of what's called extraordinary renditions to detain suspected terrorists. Now with the recent allegations that the CIA is using European airports to transport detainees and the reports of so-called black sites in Poland and Romania, European leaders are calling for answers. Franco Frattini is the justice commissioner for the European Union.

Mr. FRANCO FRATTINI (Justice Commissioner, European Union): (Through Translator) It's absolutely clear that such facts would represent if they really happened a serious infringement of the principles of the European Union as well as of the laws of EU member states which punishes such facts.

MARTIN: Frattini asked Poland and Romania if such black sites existed in their countries. Both countries denied the allegations; although some Polish officials have not dismissed the possibility. Richard Charnevski(ph) is the Polish representative to the European parliament.

Mr. RICHARD CHARNEVSKI (Polish Representative, European Parliament): I think that it probable that the presence of CIA was in Poland. I understand that the United States must have instruments in ...(unintelligible) but we must know about every activities of our American friends in our country.

MARTIN: But that answer doesn't satisfy many members of the European parliament like Sarah Ludford from Great Britain.

Ms. SARAH LUDFORD (European Parliament): If the CIA really has tried or succeeded to have these facilities in Eastern European states, then I think it would make the EU frankly a laughingstock if we're unable to find out that there's absolutely no truth in it or we look as if we can't be bothered to find out if there's any truth in it.

MARTIN: Individual countries have launched their own investigations into the CIA's renditions. Prosecutors in Spain have filed a report accusing the CIA of using an airport in Mallorca during the alleged kidnapping of a German national who says the CIA flew him to Afghanistan where he was questioned and tortured. Separately, Italy is investigation the alleged CIA kidnapping of an Islamic cleric from Milan in 2003 who was flown to Egypt via Germany. Prosecutors in Germany have also opened a criminal investigation in connection with the case. Everhard Bier(ph) is the lead attorney.

Mr. EVERHARD BIER (Attorney): (Through Translator) Landing a CIA plane on German soil is not a crime. The crime is if a kidnapped person touches German soil and is forced on to another plane bound for a third country, in this case Egypt. This is a violation of Germany's laws of constraint and a deprivation of liberty.

MARTIN: Sweden and Norway have launched inquiries into possible CIA operated flights there, and the Danish foreign ministry has asked the CIA to avoid Danish airspace altogether when transporting secret prisoners. This week, members of the European parliament are expected to push for a more comprehensive investigation into the CIA's activities in Europe.

Rachel Martin, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.