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Amnesty slams Finland for alleged CIA rendition flights

The human rights group Amnesty International has criticised the reluctance of Finland and other Nordic countries to clarify whether they were used as transit points for so-called prisoner rendition flights by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

According to the human rights watchdog, Finland has refused to initiate a proper probe in spite of ample evidence of the flights.

Amnesty's Finnish arm suspects that between 2001 and 2006 there were several under-the-radar prisoner flights through Finland. Based on information it received, Amnesty Finland estimated that the CIA may have used Finland as a transit point for flights carrying persons detained in countries such as Afghanistan, as part of its so-called war on terrorism.

During hearings in Brussels, Amnesty International representative Julia Hall told the European Parliament that Finland has resisted a thorough investigation of the information presented. Hall also criticised the Lithuanian head prosecutor, adding that new evidence provided last autumn was not reviewed. The evidence showed that the CIA brought one man suspected of terrorism from Morocco to Lithuania.

Amnesty also had harsh criticism for Denmark, which according to Hall, also refused to investigate certain flights in spite of documented evidence. She further dismissed an ongoing investigation in Denmark as insignificant.

In Norway, officials last year provided information about alleged flights through Oslo and Bergen, but Hall charged that they were too easily mollified with declarations from the United States that there was nothing suspicious about the transits.

Lithuanian prosecutor: Insufficient evidence

The European Parliament wanted to hear evidence from Arvydas Anusauskas, chair of the Lithuanian parliament's Security and Defence Committee, however he only provided a written statement and did not appear in person, citing pressing duties.

According to Anusauskas' document, authorities set up two detention centres at the request of the CIA, but they remain empty. He added that Lithuania has no way of verifying that the CIA transited detainees through its territory.

Lithuania began an investigation into the flights in 2009, when the US news channel ABC broke the news of an alleged secret CIA prison near Vilna. A parliamentary investigation revealed that a CIA plane had repeatedly flown through Lithuanian air space between 2003 and 2009.

The Lithuanian head prosecutor re-opened the investigation, but it was closed when it was determined that there was insufficient evidence.