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CIA Prisons Still an Issue 30 April 2012

Lithuania has done its best over the last five or six years to ignore the issue of secret CIA Prisons in Lithuania, but the Soviet-era tactic of ignoring it until it goes away is just not working.

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The latest international attempt at re-opening investigations came from the European Parliament. Six MEPs arrived in Lithuania to look further into the allegations of secret CIA prisons in Lithuania and left with more questions for Lithuanian prosecutors who have twice already stated that there is no evidence that CIA prisoners were held or tortured in Lithuania.

The three day visit included a visit to the Prosecutor General’s Office, meetings with Justice Minister Remigijus Simasius and presidential advisers, and a tour of the alleged CIA detention facility in Antaviliai, 20 kilometres northwest of Vilnius.

While on the surface the press conference before the departure of the delegation was cordial and encouraging, there seemed to be underlying concerns.

Both sides were keen to point out the positives. The EU delegation that Lithuania had already initiated inquiries and they hoped these actions would encourage other countries to do so.

For Lithuania, Arvydas Anusauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary National Security and Defence Committee said that in other countries such investigations were never even started, or were cancelled before completion.

It is already well known that there were two detention centres in Lithuania and that there were secret CIA flights in and out of Lithuania between 2003 – 2006.

Despite this, separate Lithuanian investigations have found that on one hand no-one was held in detention in Lithuania, the other probe found there was no evidence of anyone being held in detention in Lithuania. The EU delegation said these findings are contradictory.

President Grybauskaite also commented on proceedings saying that because the US was not forthcoming in providing information, then Lithuania's hands are tied and limited in what information they can provide. Another way of reading this might be that because the US is our best ally against Russia we are not going to rock the boat with any information that could be detrimental to them.

This despite the fact that she once snubbed President Obama's invitation to meet in Prague and is one of the few European politicians to continue to visit Belarus.

The issue of CIA prisons in Lithuania came to light again last year when an ex-prisoner from Guantanamo, Abu Zubaydah, stated that he had been held in secret detention centres in Thailand, Poland, Morocco and Lithuania.

Last year Reprieve, an international NGO, along with Amnesty International, presented evidence of further rendition flights to Lithuania that they had uncovered, and which Lithuanian authorities stated there are unaware of. Reprieve handed their findings to Lithuanian authorities, but they later announced that there was no evidence that Abu Zubaydah was ever in Lithuania without going into more detail.

Much of the mystery surrounding the case arises because Lithuanian authorities claim that they cannot make their findings public because of national security.

Still, during this visit, Helene Flautre, the spokesperson for the EU delegation, said that they were granted access to more of the data used in Lithuanian investigations and would use it.

Flautre remained critical of the lack of coherence between the two Lithuanian investigations and said she will have more questions for prosecutors in the future and urged them to reopen inquiries into the CIA flights discovered by Reprieve.

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