Secrets of CIA 'Ghost Flights' to be Revealed

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Secrets of CIA 'Ghost Flights' to be Revealed

Guantánamo detainee's lawyers hail UK air firm's U-turn that allows rendition case to go to court

by
Jamie Doward

Protest in support of Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed outside the American Embassy, London, February 17, 2009. (Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Confidential documents showing the flight plans of a CIA "ghost
plane" allegedly used to transfer a British resident to secret
interrogation sites around the world are to be made public. The move
comes after a Sussex-based company accused of involvement in
extraordinary rendition dropped its opposition to a case against it
being heard in court.

Lawyers bringing the case against Jeppesen UK on behalf of the former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Binyam Mohamed,
claimed last night the climbdown had wide-ranging legal implications
that could help expose which countries and governments knew the CIA was
using their air bases to spirit terrorist suspects around the world.

Jeppesen
UK, a division of the Jeppesen Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary
of Boeing, is alleged to have provided a range of services that allowed
planes owned by shell companies operating on behalf of the CIA to fly
suspected terrorists to "black sites" .

Jeppesen is alleged to
have provided flight planning services, secured permits for travel,
arranged fuel provision and filed flight plans for the clients in the
knowledge that the planes were being used for extraordinary rendition.

"Jeppesen's
embarrassing U-turn vindicates our fight to expose corporate collusion
in torture," said Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity
Reprieve, which has led the campaign on behalf of Mohamed. "Binyam
Mohamed, and perhaps many others, are one step nearer to making the
directors of companies stop and think before they commit criminal acts
for profit."

According to an affidavit signed by a former
employee, Jeppesen's managing director, Bob Overby, told his staff that
"we do all the extraordinary rendition flights". Sean Belcher, a former
technical writer for the company, said Overby claimed that the CIA
"spared no expense" when it came to paying for Jeppesen's services.

Jeppesen
contends there is "no basis" to the claims against it. But after
Mohamed's London lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, presented a large volume
of evidence - running to 419 pages - which they claim proves the
company's involvement in the rendition process, the British arm of the
firm withdrew its attempt to have the case struck out.

In a
letter to Mohamed's lawyers, Jeppesen's legal representatives, Allen
& Overy, state: "Our client... has undertaken an extensive review
of information in order to address and rebut your client's evidence.
During the course of this exercise it has become apparent that due to
the scope and diffuse nature of the evidence... there is a real risk
that the hearing of our client's application will descend into a
'mini-trial'... In these circumstances, we consider that the most
appropriate and proportionate course is for our client to withdraw its
application and for the claim to proceed to trial in the normal way."

A
separate case is being pursued against Jeppesen in the US by the
American Civil Liberties Union and Reprieve. The US government is
seeking to have the case against Jeppesen dismissed, saying it would
breach national security. But Jeppesen UK's decision to drop its
opposition to fighting the case in a British court means a wealth of
confidential information relating to the alleged rendition process will
become public.

"We want to know whether Jeppesen UK
participated in Binyam's rendition which led to his torture," said his
barrister, Daniel Leader. "It is right they should now disclose all the
relevant evidence so we can get to the truth."

Mohamed, an
Ethiopian who lived in Britain, was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan and
handed to the US. He alleges that before his transfer to Guantánamo Bay
he was held in prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, beyond the
reach of law. While in Morocco, he alleges that interrogators tortured
him by using blades to cut his penis and chest.

Reprieve's
renditions investigator, Clara Gutteridge, said the CIA could not have
acted alone and the case would raise questions over which governments
were complicit in extraordinary rendition.

Jeppesen did not return calls.

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