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Friday 18.08.2017 | Name days: Liene, Helēna, Elena, Ellena, Liena

Lithuania caught in CIA suspect torture repercussions

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULinas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Gut-wrenching CIA tortures, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and even forced rectal check-ups resulting in lacerations, might have happened in the proximity of Vilnius, where a secret CIA detention center «possibly» operated during 2004-2006.

Western media along with human rights watchdogs in Lithuania and internationally alike allege that a Saudi Arabian citizen, Mustafa al-Hawsavi, had been held during the years in the clandestine facility off the city. With the U.S. Senate report out, Lithuania has been staving offsour repercussions from it.

Still too many gaps to pinpoint to Lithuania?

The U.S. Senate Committee’s revelation on the U.S. intelligence «enhanced» interrogation specifics has been reverberating across the world. An annex to the report mentions «Eastern European countries» support of which for the facility the Central Intelligence Agency supposedly secured through the U.S. Embassy.

According to it, the construction of the CIA Vilnius detention center was finished before mid-2003, and it was when Mustafa al-Hawsavi and possibly four other detainees were allegedly brought in.

Later, U.S. intelligence officials sought their treatment at a local Vilnius hospital, but with ruckus over the matter in the country’s highest-echelons getting louder, the Arab men have never been taken to it, though the medical facility, according to the report, had been paid «over x million» for their treatment.

Report says with the country’s leadership getting increasingly worried about possible ramifications from the presence of the CIA facility, did not give the U.S. agency approval for its expansion and the Americans had to close it down.

Though spots naming the countries in which CIA operated its prisons are slurred over in the Lithuanian rendition, but knowledgeable American media and human rights groups had dug out such localities and named them. Among them are Poland and Lithuania, too.

Importantly, the former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski has admitted the presence of a CIA facility in the country during his presidency in 1995-2005.

Parliamentary Committee should have dug in deeper

«The news has surfaced now again, but let’s remember that yet back in 2009, the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee of National Security and Defense concluded that there is a good portion of substantial evidence making the Committee believe that the existence of a CIA Vilnius detention facility, or even two of them, was plausible,» Kęstutis Girnius, an American-descent political analyst, told BNN.

The original report, put out by U.S. media, points out that Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a Saudi man, had been held in the Lithuanian facility, which was shut down in 2006.

«That the permission to treat Mustafa al-Hawsavi in a Lithuanian hospital was not given proves that quite a few high-ranking Lithuanian officials knew what was going on in the «violet» center. It is quite possible, however, that the then Lithuanian president, Valdas Adamkus, did not know what was happening,» Girnius told.

He says «a big mistake» has been done for not giving the Lithuanian parliamentary committee a mandate to proceed with the investigation further.

«On the other hand, it had neither legislative tools, nor experience and competence to carry it out,» the analyst told.

Girnius believes that the whole brouhaha over the US Senate report on CIA interrogation methods is «short-lived» and is likely to die out soon.

«Obviously, the new revelations are hurting the United States very much and furthermore: puts it in jeopardy of a possible retaliation for the torture revelations,» Girnius told, adding, «But I don’t think that with some of the U.S. allies highlighted in the CIA report Lithuania may be subject to any threat. On the contrary, it will enhance the U.S. and Lithuanian ties on all the levels».

Human rights watchdogs urge disclosure of «full report»

However, human rights activists have urged Lithuanian prosecutors to turn to the United States with a request to provide its full report about overseas prisons of the Central Intelligence Agency, including one that allegedly operated in Lithuania.

Expert of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Meta Adutavičiūtė, said the U.S. Senate report fuels the suspicions of interrogation of Saudi Arabian citizen Mustafa al-Hawsawi in a secret centre outside Vilnius.

«The information is sufficient for the prosecutor investigating the case to turn to U.S. institutions and request the report in full,» Adutavičiūtė told BNS, a Lithuanian news agency, on Wednesday, December 10.

In her words, the Lithuanian parliament’s investigation and the U.S. Senate report lead to a presumption that Lithuania could have hosted the centre.

«We see from the report that al-Hawsawi could have been held at the purple detention centre and was moved from there due to major health problems and because he was not provided the necessary medical care there,» she added.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has said on Wednesday it will ask the U.S. government for additional information about secret detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists abroad.

The move comes in response the publication by the U.S. Senate of a report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme which allegedly included keeping prisoners in secret detention sites overseas.

«We will ask for the published report to be presented. We will consider asking the full report and not its shortened version,» Irmantas Mikelionis, chief prosecutor of the Office’s Organized Crimes and Corruption Investigation Department, told journalists on Wednesday, December 10.

Asked whether Lithuania is cooperating with Poland and Romania, where CIA prisons were also allegedly situated, the prosecutor said: «I can say yes, we are cooperating, but I wouldn’t want to go into details now.»

Mikelionis said the investigation into «unlawful transportation of a person over the Lithuanian border» continues but it could re-qualified upon receipt of additional information.

Former Lithuanian President:  «I don’t believe it»

Meanwhile, Lithuania’s former president Valdas Adamkus said he was assured by security officials that Lithuania did not host a secret CIA detention centre for suspected terrorists.

He reiterated he is convinced that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did not secretly interrogate prisoners in Lithuania.

«I was assured by top-ranking officials of our security agencies that there was no prison in Lithuania and that nobody ever delivered the prisoners,» Adamkus told.

«I then said that all the information I had collected proves once again that no prisoners were brought to Lithuania from there, and until I see documents before my eyes about someone secretly bringing prisoners into Lithuania, I will stick to my position that there were no prisons or prisoners in Lithuania,» said the former president.

The U.S. Senate published a report on CIA detention and interrogation programme that involved torturing suspected terrorists in secret detention sites overseas.

According to The Washington Post, the CIA operated detention and interrogation sites in Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Thailand and Afghanistan.

A new investigation may loom

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė had admitted in the past she had «indirect suspicions» that a secret CIA prison could have operated in Lithuania.

Back in 2009, President Grybauskaitė was one of quite few politicians who supported the National Security and Defence Committee’s investigation.

With the CIA interrogation techniques being discussed widely, Lithuanian MPs are pondering a new investigation into the CIA Vilnius facility case.

« This is quite possible, but to remind one, there’re the conclusions on the CIA facility thing from the parliamentary National Security and Defence in 2009. But as the legislators had a pretty busy day yesterday (December 10), many were caught off guard by the news and haven’t had time to cast a keener eye on what is happening. If a new investigation were started, I believe the body should be given a very good legislative «tool-kit» to dig into the what really happened nearly 10 years ago,» Julius Sabatauskas, a Lithuanian parliamentarian, told BNN.

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