Page last updated at 23:44 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Lithuania hosted secret CIA prisons

Lithuanian State Security training centre at Antaviliai, 19 Nov 09
This former riding school allegedly served as a CIA detention centre

The CIA set up at least two secret detention centres in Lithuania after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the US, a Lithuanian inquiry has found.

A parliamentary committee report says in 2005 and 2006, CIA chartered planes were allowed to land in Lithuania.

It says that no Lithuanian officials were allowed near the aircraft, nor were they told who was on board.

Poland and Romania hosted similar CIA "black sites", say reports by ABC News in the US.

In Lithuania, one centre on the outskirts of the capital Vilnius had room for eight terror suspects at a time, according to ABC News.

It was formerly a riding school and suspects were reportedly held there between 2004 and 2005.

But the parliamentary report appears to absolve Lithuania's political leaders of responsibility for any human rights violations that may have been committed by the CIA, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Moscow.

It says even the president was unaware of exactly what the US intelligence service was doing.

Secret flights

The practice of "extraordinary rendition" and the long-suspected network of secret US detention facilities became among the most controversial aspects of the Bush administration's response to the 11 September attacks.

"Extraordinary rendition" is the tactic of capturing militant suspects in one country and transporting them to another without judicial oversight.

The BBC's defence and security correspondent Nick Childs says critics of the Bush administration saw it as a way of avoiding legal constraints and, in some cases, as they put it, "contracting out" torture - although American officials repeatedly denied the allegations.

The issue caused considerable strains between Washington and some of its key allies during President Bush's administration.

Many governments - not least the British - have been under pressure to disclose what they knew, Nick Childs says, and the tactics the Americans did or did not use, and how extensively, remain murky.

US officials have hinted at perhaps dozens of prisoners having been held in secret detention centres. A controversial European Parliament report, however, spoke of hundreds of so-called "rendition" flights.

So far, only one case has actually gone to trial. Recently an Italian court convicted more than 20 American agents in their absence of being involved in the abduction of a Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003.

US President Barack Obama announced early on that he was closing the foreign detention centre network.

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