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European MPs to probe CIA claims

BBC | December 15 2005

The European Parliament has agreed in principle to launch an inquiry into claims that the CIA has been operating secret prisons in Europe.
The move was backed by leaders of all the political groups in the parliament.

It follows an inquiry by the Council of Europe that earlier this week said that such allegations were credible.

The US has come under pressure over media claims that the CIA ran secret jails for terror suspects abroad and flew some through European airports.

Meanwhile, Germany on Wednesday denied any role in the abduction of its national Khaled al-Masri who says he was seized by US intelligence agents in 2003 and taken to Afghanistan, where he was held for five months and mistreated.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Washington would never condone torture, without categorically denying that some terror suspects were transported or held in Europe.

'Without prejudice'

The leaders of the European Parliament agreed unanimously that their investigative committee would run alongside the investigation by the human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

"It's important in this European Parliament that we get to the root of the matter," said Hannes Swoboda, one of the leaders of the Socialist group.

"We must investigate without prejudice but without being blind to the possibilities. We want to know the truth, nothing more than the truth," Mr Swoboda said.

The committee's exact mandate is expected to be determined in January.

Speaking in the parliament, EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini warned against setting up a separate parliamentary committee.

"There is no evidence confirming allegations that have been made," Mr Frattini said.

"Finding out the truth means getting evidence. No accusations can be considered founded without evidence," he said.

Mr Frattini added that in the absence of evidence he had to believe the denials from some European governments.

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