Vilnius: Lithuania's intelligence agency helped the CIA to set up secret prisons in the Baltic country, but it's unclear whether they were actually used to interrogate terror suspects, a parliamentary panel said Tuesday.
The report by the Lithuanian legislature's National Security Committee was based on testimony of top politicians and national security officials. Its investigation was launched after media reports suggested this year that Lithuania — a close ally in the U.S. war on terror — hosted clandestine detention centers.
"We have determined that the Lithuanian State Security Department has received requests from the CIA to establish detention facilities," said Arvydas Anusauskas, chairman of Parliament's national security committee.
The report said the State Security Department, the former Soviet republic's top security agency, provided two facilities to the CIA. One was a small cell set up in 2002 that could only house one suspect. The other was set up in 2004 and was big enough to hold eight suspects, the panel said.
It said there was no evidence that the State Security Department had informed the president, prime minister or other political leaders of its cooperation with the CIA. The country's former leaders have denied any knowledge of the secret prisons.
Anusauskas said aircraft involved in transporting prisoners had entered Lithuanian airspace and landed in Vilnius, the country's capital, on several occasions in 2002-2005. "Those airplanes were not checked by border police and customs, (and) persons traveling and cargo were never identified," Anusauskas said.
However, the panel found no evidence that any suspects were interrogated in Lithuania.
Though inconclusive, the probe has shaken Lithuania's leadership. President Dalia Grybauskaite has demanded that the former director of the State Security Department, Mecys Laurinkus, immediately leave his post as ambassador to Georgia.
Povilas Malakauskas resigned as the department's director last week, citing "personal reasons."
The panel didn't give details on the two alleged detention centers — labeled "Project 1" and "Project 2." An ABC report last month identified the second facility as a former horseback riding school in Antaviliai, a village 12 miles (20 kilometers) northeast of Vilnius. It was privately owned until 2004 when it was sold to Elite L.L.C., a company that no longer exists.
The State Security Department bought it in 2007 and used it as a training center. The facility has no address and uses a post office box number in the village.
In a 2007 probe conducted on behalf of the Council of Europe, Swiss politician Dick Marty accused 14 European governments of permitting the CIA to run detention centers or carry out rendition flights between 2002 and 2005.
The Parliamentary panel urged prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation into the State Security Department's involvement in the case.
First Published: Tuesday, December 22, 2009, 18:11