Polish officials deny existence of camps, but say that planes did land (pictured: Szymany airstrip?)
Human Rights Watch’s accusations (see previous two posts) that secret camps in Poland are holding terror suspects on behalf of the CIA have been denied by the Polish government. But they are not disputing that planes on route to Guantanamo Bay from Afghanistan did touch down in Poland. AP reports:
Polish authorities…confirmed Friday that a plane carrying Americans touched down at a little-used airport on the day when, a human rights group says, flight logs indicate that a C.I.A. aircraft landed there. Airport officials and border guards said that on Sept. 22, 2003, a Boeing passenger plane carrying seven people with United States passports touched down at midnight at Szczytno-Szymany Airport, a former military base in the northeastern pine forests. Szczytno-Szymany is not an operating airport, but planes may land if arrangements are made in advance.
The 737 – which was on the runway for about an hour - took on five other people traveling on United States passports with business visas attached.
AP reports that a former director of the airport, Mariola Przewloczka, says that the occupants inside the plane did not get off, but guards went out and boarded the 737.
HRW’s evidence is not just from flight logs, which they claim to have seen. The NGO says that it has matched the records with information gained from interviews with detainees at US camps.
The Red Cross expressed concern “at the fate of an unknown number of people captured as part of the so-called global war on terror,” whom, it said, were held at undisclosed places of detention.
In the US – where Bush’s approval ratings have hit an all-time low due to Republican in-house scandals, the war in Iraq, and incompetence in the aftermath of the hurricanes which lashed New Orleans and other parts of the southeast – is under yet more pressure because of the ‘Polish gulag’ allegations.
On the Australian ABC television’s Four Corners programme, David Hicks –who was an inmate at Guantanamo Bay - claimed that he had been taken to one of these ‘black sites’ prisons, but didn’t know where it was.
Washington has refused to say whether these camps exist or not.
If the allegations turn out to be true then Poland will be in a particularly difficult position politically, as this would contravene EU and human rights agreements which it has signed.