Prompted by a U.S. Senate report on the CIA's "black sites" for
interrogating al Qaeda suspects, former Polish President Aleksander
Kwasniewski, at a joint news conference with former Prime Minister
Leszek Miller, said on Wednesday he knew about the facility in
He said the CIA had denied Polish officials access to the site, a
villa on the grounds of a Polish intelligence training academy, so
they did not know people inside were being tortured. He said that
while he and Miller knew people were detained there, they were told
the detainees were cooperating willingly with U.S. intelligence and
would be treated as prisoners of war.
Lawyers for former detainees say however that even if the detainees
were treated as prisoners of war - which the lawyers dispute - it is
illegal to detain anyone in secret, and Poland had a legal
obligation to prevent this happening.
The report's publication is giving rise to uncomfortable questions
in countries that hosted the "black sites" and may complicate future
security cooperation with the United States.
"Based on information in the media, the public statements from Mr.
Kwasniewski and Mr. Miller suggest the prosecutors certainly have
reason to interview them," said Mikolaj Pietrzak, a lawyer whose
client, Adb al-Rahim al-Nashiri was held at the site.
"Statements they made recently indicate for the first time that they
knew people were being held at the site," Pietrzak said.
Reuters sent questions to Miller and Kwasniewski, via their staffs,
asking if they knew the people being detained at the CIA site did
not have the protections they were entitled to by law. Aides to both
men said they had no comment.
The CIA declined all comment, including on Kwasniewski's assertion
that the agency had given assurances that detainees were cooperating
willingly with U.S. intelligence and would be treated as prisoners
The Polish investigation, launched in 2008, is into allegations by
three men - al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah and Walid Bin Attash - that
they were held illegally and abused at the CIA facility. Prosecutors
have never revealed who was under investigation. A source close to
the investigation has told Reuters it is aimed at Polish officials
without elaborating further.
Asked whether prosecutors would take into account the statements
this week by Kwasniewski and Miller, Piotr Kosmaty, spokesman for
the Appellate Prosecutor's office in the Polish city of Krakow,
which is handling the case, declined to comment.
The United States itself has not launched any prosecutions of CIA
operatives or others who were involved in the agency's now-defunct
interrogation program over their role.
Kwasniewski, at his joint news conference with Miller on Wednesday,
said they did what they believed was necessary to protect Poland's
national security. He said they sought assurances from the U.S.
authorities the detainees would be treated in accordance with the
law, and asked Washington to close the facility when they became
worried that this was not the case.
QUESTIONS IN ROMANIA, LITHUANIA TOO
The release of the Senate report has also raised questions in
Romania and Lithuania. Names of countries that hosted "black sites"
were redacted in the report, but details in the report were
consistent with other information relating to CIA detention sites in
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said on Wednesday he
hoped parliament would re-open an investigation, and called on
Washington to share relevant information.
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A spokesman for Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said in an
email: “The events mentioned in the US Senate Report about CIA had
taken place approx. 10 years ago, under another leadership of
Romania, the only one in the position to make comments/statement
about these events.”
Kosmaty, the prosecution spokesman, said
Polish prosecutors planned to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to
provide them with the full version of the report.
"This report has a dual significance for us because it will allow us
to acquaint ourselves with what has been established and also what
evidence could be useful in terms of the investigation that we are
conducting," he said.
Kosmaty added that because of the time it takes to get answers from
the U.S. authorities, prosecutors may have to apply for permission
to prolong their investigation when it expires in April next year.
It has already been extended multiple times.
In addition to the Polish investigation, lawyers for Zubaydah and
al-Nashiri brought a case against Poland to the European Court of
Human Rights. The court ruled Poland failed to meet its obligations
under European law in the case, and ordered it to pay compensation
of 100,000 euros ($124,520) to al-Nashiri and 130,000 euros to
The Polish government is challenging the judgment, on the grounds
that the court had not put in place procedures that would have
allowed it to present confidential evidence to the court.
Adam Bodnar, vice-president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human
Rights who helped bring the case against Poland to the Strasbourg
court, said of the Polish prosecutors: "They should finish the
investigation and file indictments."
But he also said the investigation, now in its sixth year, could be
dragged out even longer without a conclusion, using the Senate
report as a pretext.
"My feeling is that they will do whatever is possible in order not
to finish the investigation," before parliamentary elections
scheduled for the end of 2015, he said.
Kosmaty declined to comment on assertions that prosecutors are
stalling the case, but said seeking information from the U.S.
authorities was essential. In the past, Washington has delayed
passing on information, or refused to provide it.
Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland's defense minister, told Polish television
on Thursday there was a moral in the affair for Poland, one of
Washington's staunchest European allies: "Sometimes you have to say
no, even to your best friend."
($1 = 0.8031 euros)
(Additonal reporting by Wojciech Zurawski in KRAKOW, Marcin
Goclowski and Adrian Krajewski in WARSAW and Mark Hosenball in
Washington; editing by Janet McBride)
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