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Romanian: Detainees may have stopped over

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1103AP_Romania_Secret_Prisons.html Saturday, November 19, 2005 · Last updated 4:53 p.m. PT Romanian: Detainees may have
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 19, 2005
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      http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1103AP_Romania_Secret_Prisons.html

      Saturday, November 19, 2005 · Last updated 4:53 p.m.
      PT

      Romanian: Detainees may have stopped over

      By ALISON MUTLER
      ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

      BUCHAREST, Romania -- American planes carrying
      detainees from the U.S. prison for terror suspects in
      Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may have made refueling
      stopovers in Romania, the country's former defense
      minister suggested in an interview published Saturday.

      It was the first time a senior Romanian official who
      would have had access to information about U.S.
      military activity in Romania has acknowledged that
      prisoners may have passed through the country.

      In his remarks to the daily Evenimentul Zilei,
      however, Ioan Mihai Pascu indicated that any such
      stopovers would not amount to evidence that the CIA
      was running a secret prison for al-Qaida suspects on
      Romanian soil, as has been alleged.

      He said Romania's Supreme Defense Council, the
      country's top defense body, never received a request
      from the CIA to operate such a prison in the country.
      He added, however, that there had been "intense
      collaboration" between Romanian and American
      intelligence services, without elaborating.

      "So a flight landed here for refueling? That's
      something else," he said. "If there were stopovers,
      what's the problem? Such a plane would be American
      territory, and if there was something, the American
      law is broken."

      While Romanian officials have denied the existence of
      a secret CIA prison, they have been vague about the
      issue of possible transit of prisoners through
      Romanian territory.

      On Nov. 3, Human Rights Watch said it had evidence
      indicating the CIA transported suspected terrorists
      captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania.

      The New York-based group said it based its conclusion
      on flight logs of CIA aircraft from 2001 to 2004 that
      it had obtained. The group identified the Mihail
      Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania and Poland's
      Szczytno-Szymany airport as likely sites for secret
      detention centers.

      In an interview with the AP on Nov. 9, Maj. Florin
      Putanu, the head of the Kogalniceanu air base, denied
      there had been either Afghan or Muslim prisoners on
      the base. It was not clear, however, whether his
      denial of a secret prison on the base was also meant
      to dismiss the possibility that the airfield was used
      as a transit point for prisoners.

      He said the U.S. used the base as a transit point for
      troops and equipment during the Afghanistan and Iraq
      wars.

      The U.S. military evacuated its remaining forces from
      the base in June 2003.

      Pascu told the newspaper the fuel stopovers would have
      been "normal."

      "What should we protest about? What's the big deal?
      They surely didn't come from Guantanamo on foot?" he
      told the newspaper.

      Pascu, who was defense minister from 2000 to 2004, is
      currently a lawmaker for the opposition Social
      Democracy Party in the Chamber of Deputies. He could
      not be immediately reached for comment by The
      Associated Press on Saturday, nor could a government
      spokeswoman.

      Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Cristinel Giga
      declined to comment on Pascu's interview and referred
      to earlier remarks by President Traian Basescu denying
      that the CIA ran a secret prison in Romania.

      Allegations that the CIA hid and interrogated key
      al-Qaida suspects at Soviet-era compounds in eastern
      Europe emerged in a report in The Washington Post on
      Nov. 2. The newspaper reported that the facilities
      were part of a covert prison system set up by the
      agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that at
      various times included sites in eight countries.

      The paper did not name the countries involved.
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