Lithuania Urged to Probe Alleged Secret CIA Site by Rights Group

Lithuania should renew an investigation into claims it hosted a secret U.S. Central Intelligence Agency prison, human rights groups said.

The former Soviet republic sheltered the facility where a Saudi national accused of financing the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks was held illegally, according to Redress, a London-based anti-torture advocacy group and Lithuania’s Human Rights Monitoring Institute, which lodged a complaint with prosecutors, London-based Amnesty International said in a statement on its website today. The prosecutor’s office confirmed it received the complaint and said it’s considering it.

Lithuania, the U.K., Romania and Poland are among countries that haven’t fully investigated allegations they hosted secret CIA facilities to interrogate suspected terrorists starting in 2002, Redress said this month. Mustafa al-Hawsawi, now held at Guantanamo Bay, probably was detained secretly in Lithuania sometime between 2004 and 2006, according to Amnesty.

“The Lithuanian government has said time and again that if fresh information is presented, it will consider re-opening the previous investigation,” Amnesty representative Julia Hall said in the statement. “Well, here it is.”

Lithuania’s general prosecutor’s office closed a pretrial investigation on secret prison operations in the country in January 2011 citing a lack of evidence. The office is considering the complaint, which it received on Sept. 13, the office’s spokeswoman, Elena Martinoniene, said by phone today. No further comments will be made until prosecutors decide how to proceed, she said.

Amnesty Evidence

Lithuania two years ago refused to renew an investigation of possible illegal CIA work in the country, Amnesty said. It said human rights groups at the time gave prosecutors evidence that Abu Zubaydah, a stateless Palestinian al-Qaeda suspect now held at Guantanamo Bay, was secretly sent to Vilnius in 2005.

Lithuania, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, should lead by example in defense of the rule of law by finishing its probe of the matter, Amnesty’s Hill said.

“Stalling on accountability for involvement in torture and disappearance sends a dangerous message,” she said.

A Lithuanian parliamentary commission said in December 2009 it had evidence that security department officials allowed the CIA to operate a secret prison in the Baltic state between 2002 and 2006 to detain terrorist suspects. The panel said it had no “firm evidence” that the prison was used for its original purpose to interrogate terrorist suspects.

Then-U.S. President George W. Bush in 2006 confirmed for the first time the country held some detainees captured abroad at covert jails run by the CIA.

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