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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 06:40 GMT
European press review

Dailies across the continent believe that Swiss MP Dick Marty's investigation into secret CIA prisons in Europe has little to show for itself, and others believe that the recent British spy scandal in Russia is part of an attempt by President Vladimir Putin to curb non-governmental organisations.

Rendition probe

A commentator for the Austrian paper Die Presse believes that the results of Swiss MP Dick Marty's preliminary investigation into secret CIA prisons in Europe are "thin".

The paper says that in the course of his investigation Mr Marty invariably encountered governments showing little willingness to provide information.

It is very unlikely that European governments were ignorant of what was going on
El Pais, Spain
It adds that Mr Marty provides no fresh evidence and that he has scraped together information from newspapers, creating a kind of readers' digest based on circumstantial evidence.

"But even this - the clues that Mr Marty has collected - is embarrassing enough, above all for Europeans," the paper feels.

It points out that according to Mr Marty's report, it is highly unlikely that European countries were unaware of secret CIA activities in Europe.

"Scathing criticism is reserved for those Europeans who enjoyed posing as moralists only to abuse Bush's war on terror," the paper feels.

The paper believes that Mr Marty's report can do little to change Europe's hypocrisy.

Germany's Berliner Zeitung also believes that Mr Marty's report "carries little weight in terms of content".

The paper says that, at best, the report shows that the investigation is only at its initial stage.

"Without determined co-operation and willingness to provide information by all EU governments - this is also the message of the report - the intelligence activities of Germany and other countries will remain in the twilight," the paper believes.

The paper says it is often forgotten in public debates that the issue is not about Germany's intelligence activities in Iraq alone but also about CIA flights over Germany, the kidnapping of terror suspects and the German government's co-operation with regimes that use torture.

"Marty's report has come at the right time for Germany," the paper feels.

Spanish daily El Pais returns to the issue of the CIA "spy flights" through Europe with a front-page story detailing new allegations made in the Marty report.

The paper's headline is a direct quote from Mr Marty's report to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg: "There were kidnappings and transportation to countries where they torture".

The daily says Mr Marty defines the phenomenon as "subcontracting torture" and estimates that 100 people were transported on CIA flights, although it adds that he does not provide proof of the existence of secret prisons.

However, the daily includes Mr Marty's conclusion that it is "very unlikely that European governments were ignorant of what was going on".

Moscow-London spying row

In an editorial, the French newspaper Le Monde describes as a curious coincidence "the spying allegations made by the Russian authorities against British diplomats and non-governmental organisations at a time when President Vladimir Putin is signing a law restricting NGOs' freedom of action".

Whether these allegations are true or not, "one can see right through them," the paper says.

This is not a good enough reason to turn a blind eye to the policy of authoritarian and imperial restoration pursued by the head of the Kremlin
Le Monde, France
"For the Kremlin, it is about discrediting Russian NGOs, which are trying to ensure that human rights are respected in a country which has never attached great importance to them."

"Such a stratagem can only fool those who believe that they are pursuing a worldwide strategy by swooning over the 'new Russian democracy'," it says.

If western countries need the support of Moscow against Iran's nuclear ambitions and to guarantee their gas supplies, "this is not a good enough reason to turn a blind eye to the policy of authoritarian and imperial restoration pursued by the head of the Kremlin," the paper concludes.

The Bucharest paper Romania Libera sees one coincidence too many in the British spy affair in Moscow, and feels that it fits in neatly with President Vladimir Putin's drive to tighten his grip on power.

"The affair was announced on television exactly on the day of the first meeting of the Civil Chamber, a consultative body set up by Kremlin to represent civil society, and when the Russian president promulgated a law on NGOs, [which was] criticised by the West," the paper writes.

"Experts also wonder how come the Russian special services possess documents on bank transfers by the British embassy to the Helsinki group if they have not conducted any searches at the group's headquarters, or the bank, or the embassy.

"It is clear that Putin's state is toughening its stance on NGOs," the paper concludes.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.


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