STRASBOURG, France - The United States flew detainees to other countries where they would be tortured and European governments probably knew about it, the head of a European investigation into the controversy said on Tuesday.
But Swiss senator Dick Marty said in a preliminary report for the Council of Europe human rights watchdog that he had found no irrefutable evidence to confirm allegations that the CIA operated secret detention centers in Europe.
It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware.
Senator Dick Marty, Switzerland
His report kept pressure on the CIA and European governments over the allegations that the U.S. intelligence agency flew prisoners through European airports to jails in third countries, but critics said it offered no hard new evidence.
The September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. landmarks sparked a U.S. global war on terrorism against al Qaeda and led to the invasion of Iraq. Public opinion has hardened in Europe since deadly bomb attacks in London last July and in Madrid in March, 2004.
"There is a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing of torture'," Marty told the 46-nation Council, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.
He said it had been proved that "individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and transported to different destinations in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered degrading treatment and torture."
He estimated that more than 100 people had been involved in "renditions" -- delivering prisoners to jails in third countries, where they may have been mistreated or tortured.
"It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware," he said.
EVIDENCE LACKING ON DETENTION CENTRES
But Marty said there was no firm evidence of detention centers in Europe similar to the one operated by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Marty, who has said European states turned a blind eye to the "dirty work", said not all countries appeared to want to cooperate with his probe.
The United States did not immediately respond to Marty's interim findings.
The U.S. government has neither denied nor confirmed the reports of secret detention centers, first made in the Washington Post newspaper in November. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Washington has done nothing illegal.
The allegations followed widespread anger in Europe about the U.S. treatment of prisoners in Iraq and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of people judged by the U.S. military to be illegal combatants are held without charge.
Denis MacShane, a British member of parliament and former minister for Europe in U.S. ally Britain, told reporters Marty's report "has more holes than a Swiss cheese." A British government spokesman said there seemed to be no new facts.
European Security Commissionner Franco Frattini called on European Union member states to cooperate fully with the investigations but said the European Commission would not draw any conclusions yet because the investigation is still going on.
Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Brussels, Kate Baldwin in London.
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