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100 landings on Scots soil by US jets with torture links

JAMES KIRKUP / Scotsman | April 8 2006

AIRCRAFT linked to the CIA's alleged programme of torture flights have landed at Scottish airports more than 100 times in recent years, the government admitted yesterday.

Private jets used by CIA front companies and contractors have routinely used runways at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Prestwick, Aberdeen, Inverness and even Wick, the Department of Transport confirmed. The RAF base at Leuchars in Fife has also been used.

After a Freedom of Information Act request from the Liberal Democrats, the department released air traffic control records of flights made by 20 US-registered aircraft operated by CIA front companies and hire firms known to rent planes to the agency.

Human rights groups have alleged these flights are used to carry people the US accuses of terrorism to allied countries where they face torture, a practice known as extraordinary rendition.

The British government says it has no indication that the American flights are used for this.

"None of the information held by the department provides evidence that these flights were involved in rendition," the transport ministry said as it released the air traffic records.

The records detail 177 flights that called at UK airports between January 2001 and November 2005.

They include: 37 stops at Prestwick, 25 at Glasgow, 13 at Edinburgh, 11 at Wick, five at Inverness and two at Aberdeen. There were 11 at RAF Leuchars.

The files show that countries the planes also visited included Jordan, Morocco and Iraq.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International released a report containing details of about 1,000 European flights which it says were operated by the CIA through front companies and another 600 flights involving aircraft allegedly hired by the agency.

Last night, an Amnesty spokeswoman said that while the transport department's air traffic disclosure was welcome, many important questions remained unanswered.

"We still do not know who was aboard these flights, what went on when they reached their destinations, and we do not know if the British government ever asked about those things," she said. "We need an independent public inquiry to establish exactly what the government knows about these flights."

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