Lithuanian foreign minister downplays CIA prison claims

Linas Linkevičius
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

“From the information that has been published, personally, I have not seen anything new,” he told BNS.

His comments came in response to claims by a lawyer for a former prisoner, Saudi Arabian-born Palestinian national Abu Zubaydah, that a report issued by the US Senate last year confirms that the United States operated a detention facility for suspected terrorists in Lithuania in 2005-2006.

“Simply on the basis of the information in the Senate report itself, there are numerous clear indications of agreements reached between Lithuanian officials and the CIA, and of large sums of money changing hands in exchange for support,” lawyer Helen Duffy, who represents the Palestinian man in the trial against Lithuania, said in a letter handed to BNS on Friday.

In a report published in December 2014, the US Senate did not specify the countries that hosted CIA detention centres, but human rights watchdogs believe Lithuania accommodated the centre “violet” mentioned in the document.

According to Linkevičius, the published censored US Senate report did not provide any evidence. “The Senate report was censored and it, our competent institutions said, does not provide evidence that a legal process should be launched. We have said numerous times that we are open,” the minister said, adding that the lawyer’s claims would be assessed by Lithuania’s competent institutions.

The Government of Lithuania on Thursday sent its own comments to the court, but does not comment on them and is asking the court to restrict publication of the material, Karolina Bubnytė, the Lithuanian government’s representatives at the ECHR, told BNS. She said she has not seen the lawyers’ comments.

Contacted by BNS, the US Embassy in Vilnius on Friday refused to comment on the issue.

Last year, neighbouring Poland lost a similar case at the Strasbourg court when the ECHR recognized that Poland had given permission for the CIA to set up a secret detention facility in its territory and did not inhibit illegal detention and torture of Abu Zubaydah and another Saudi Arabian citizen in 2002-2003.

The court ordered Poland to pay EUR 130,000 in compensation to Abu Zubaydah.

Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers claim he was kept in prisons in Lithuania, Poland, Thailand and Morocco after his detention in Pakistan in 2002 on suspicion of being a member of Al Qaeda before his transfer to the Guantanamo prison.

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