Swiss Inquiry Says C.I.A. Jails Document Must Be Followed Up


New York Times

January 11, 2006

BRUSSELS, Jan. 10 (AP) -- The head of a European investigation into alleged CIA prisons in Europe said Tuesday the purported Egyptian government document naming countries where such prisons existed is a new lead which must be followed up.

But Dick Marty, a Swiss senator leading the probe on behalf of the Council of Europe, said it still wasn't clear whether the document - a fax reportedly sent by satellite transmission from Egypt's Foreign Ministry to its embassy in London - was genuine.

The document's existence was reported Sunday by the Swiss weekly SonnstagsBlick. The fax, intercepted Nov. 15 by Swiss intelligence, reportedly said Egypt had confirmed through its own sources that the U.S. intelligence agency had held 23 terrorist suspects from Iraq and Afghanistan at a military base in Romania.

It also said there were similar U.S. detention centers in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria, according to the Swiss newspaper, which printed a copy of a Swiss summary of the fax.

Marty also said he wondered how Swiss intelligence intercepted a fax allegedly sent from Egypt to London. "It's the first time these allegations come directly from an Arab country," he said.

The Strasbourg, France-based Council of Europe began its investigation after allegations surfaced in November that U.S. agents interrogated key al-Qaida suspects at clandestine prisons in Eastern Europe and transported some suspects to other countries via Europe.

New York-based Human Rights Watch identified Romania and Poland as possible sites of secret U.S.-run detention facilities. Both countries have denied involvement.

European officials say secret prisons would violate the continent's human rights laws. Marty is to present his findings to the council's parliamentary assembly later this month.

In Bern, The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday opened an investigation into the leak.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office is investigating a possible breach of official secrets by the editor of SonntagsBlick as well as two journalists at the newspaper, Prosecutor's spokesman Hansjuerg Mark Wiedmer told The Associated Press.

Publishing a secret document can be a violation of Swiss law punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Switzerland's Defense Ministry has already launched an investigation into the leak.