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Protest held over 'torture flights'

Scotsman | January 16 2006

Human rights campaigners have held a vigil outside the US Consulate in Edinburgh against alleged CIA torture flights.

The protest by Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) and the Stop The War Coalition followed demonstrations at the country's airports last month.

Around 30 activists held placards calling for an end to so-called extraordinary rendition flights during the one-hour noon vigil.

It is claimed planes carrying prisoners in CIA custody to foreign countries for interrogation and torture have been landing at Scottish airports.

The SACC gathered signatures for an open letter to US Consul Cecile Shea, which will be delivered to her on Tuesday. A copy of the letter will also be sent US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Protesters hope to present a further copy to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell when he visits Glasgow on Monday. Mr Powell is the guest speaker at the Jewish National Fund Charitable Trust's fundraising dinner in the city.

Nine MSPs from the Scottish Socialist, Green and Scottish National parties among others have put their names to the letter. Ms Shea again ruled out allowing British officials on to American flights to check them.

She told the Scottish Press Association: "I believe the Lord Advocate has already said there's no evidence any crime has been committed on those planes. And if anyone has any evidence that should be submitted to the local police and Crown prosecutor.

"We don't routinely inspect British planes on American soil so we don't see any reason why American planes re-fuelling in Scotland should be searched. Condoleeza Rice has already stated no US planes are being used to take prisoners to countries where they are tortured and I believe her."

The protest came as a Council of Europe human rights probe said the CIA had breached international law by transporting prisoners to foreign countries. New York-based Human Rights Watch has identified Romania and Poland as possible sites of secret US-run detention facilities. Both countries have denied involvement.

Lothian and Borders Police said the protest had passed peacefully without any arrest but pointed out that the organisers had not asked for permission.

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