Lithuania hit back Thursday over new claims that the Baltic state had hosted a secret CIA facility allegedly used to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects.
“There are more important things in Lithuania than spending two days denying the gossip of ABC journalists,” Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas told the Baltic News Service.
“We have to follow hard facts rather than rumours and wild tales,” he said.
“Therefore it is vital that we conduct an investigation and clear any doubts,” he added.
On Wednesday, the US channel ABC, citing unnamed Lithuanian officials and a former American intelligence operative, claimed a site outside the capital Vilnius was used to interrogate up to eight Al-Qaeda suspects at a time from 2004 to 2005.
BNS said a Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry team visited the site — a former riding complex — last week.
The property was reportedly bought from a local family in 2004 by a US-registered company and a “building within a building” constructed, where suspects allegedly were interrogated using torture techniques such as sleep deprivation.
BNS said the US owner sold the property to the Lithuanian state in 2007 and it became an intelligence service training centre.
ABC first alleged in August that the ex-Soviet republic turned staunch US ally had hosted a CIA facility. It cited unnamed former intelligence officials and records of flights between Afghanistan and Lithuania.
The Lithuanian government denied those claims, but President Dalia Grybauskaite last month said she had “indirect suspicions.” She was not in power when the alleged site was in operation, having been elected this year.
The parliamentary probe was launched two weeks ago. Its results are due on December 22.
“We’re conducting our inquiry, and we’re examining all possible sites,” inquiry chief Arvydas Anusauskas told AFP Thursday. “Details of our investigation will not be made public until we have completed it”.
Ex-communist US allies Romania and Poland have faced similar claims in the past, denied by their governments — although the head of a Polish parliamentary inquiry said he had “justified suspicions.”
The issue of a Lithuanian site has fed debate over the “war on terror” jail at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Washington wants its allies to take in Guantanamo detainees as part of US President Barack Obama’s drive to close the controversial facility set up by his predecessor George W. Bush.
But few European nations have pledged to cooperate, given the inmates’ unclear legal status.
Lithuania in February said it had been asked to take in two inmates. But Grybauskaite, in office since July, said the issue was on ice until the CIA allegations have been cleared up.
More details on ABC News’ original story are here.
This video is from ABC’s Good Morning America, broadcast Nov. 19, 2009.
(with afp report)
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