VILNIUS (Reuters) – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ran a secret prison in Lithuania and al Qaeda suspects may have been held there, a parliamentary probe in the Baltic state found on Tuesday.
Talk of secret jails have been a hot topic in Lithuania and the head of the domestic intelligence agency has already resigned. U.S. broadcaster ABC news reported in August that Lithuania was the third European country after Poland and Romania to host secret CIA jails.
Some CIA staff are reported to have said the use of overseas detention centres was designed to circumvent U.S. law.
Arvydas Anusauskas, the head of parliament’s national security and defense committee, said the investigation found the domestic intelligence service opened two detention centres in cooperation with the CIA.
Top officials were not informed about the jails, and there was no political approval, he said. The committee said it could not exclude that people had been held in the second, larger jail.
Anusauskas told a news conference CIA flights entered Lithuania but it had not been possible to determine who had been on board.
ABC News said the secret CIA prison operated near Vilnius airport from early 2004 to late 2005 and that CIA planes flew into Lithuania with top level al Qaeda suspects.
The investigation was the second into the secret jail allegations, insisted upon by President Dalia Grybauskaite after an earlier probe found no evidence.
“It (the investigation) only proves suspicions she had for some time that there were premises designed for detention and there were flights which could have been used for transporting prisoners,” the president’s spokesman, Linas Balsys.
Lithuania’s ambassador to Georgia, Mecys Llaurinkus who led the state security department from June 1998 until April 2004, was recalled by Grybauskaite.
The investigation found five planes related to the CIA landed in Lithuania in 2003-2006, and that domestic intelligence officials prevented customs and border guards inspecting them.
“The president has no doubts that bilateral Lithuania-U.S. relationship cannot be overshadowed by these conclusions,” the spokesman added.