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UK air traffic controllers acknowledge CIA landings

[JURIST] National Air Traffic Services [official website], the UK's air traffic control provider, have reported that three CIA flights possibly involved in rendition landed at British airports and received assistance from UK air traffic control since 2001. The admission by the civil aviation body in response to parliamentary questions is said to be the first acknowledgement of official awareness and UK involvement in CIA rendition practices [JURIST news archive] transferring al Qaeda suspects to secret prisons for interrogation. Although the UK Ministry of Defence [official website] has refused to answer questions on the subject and Prime Minister Tony Blair [official website] has denied he has any knowledge of the flights, seventy-six CIA planes are alleged to have made stops in Britain since the September 11 attacks.

Earlier, in response to a leaked memo [PDF text; JURIST report] suggesting that there had been more requests for rendition flights from the US than the four 1998 requests that British legislators were already aware of, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw [official website] denied [JURIST report] that he withheld any information from Parliament concerning Britain's involvement in secret CIA rendition flights and also said there had not been any flights through Britain since the September 11 attacks.

The US government has defended its rendition actions as proper [JURIST report] and consistent with treaties and international law despite accusations from Human Rights Watch [HRW backgrounder] and other organizations. The Independent has more.

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