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Rights groups confirm CIA extraordinary rendition planes landed in Poland

[JURIST] Two human rights groups released documents [text, PDF] Monday confirming that planes associated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive] landed in Poland on six occasions in 2003. The Open Society Justice Initiative and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights [advocacy websites] released flight records obtained through a freedom of information act request to the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) [official website, in Polish]. Those records confirm [report, PDF] at least six plane landings linked to the CIA at the Szczytno-Szymany airport in northern Poland between February and September 2003. The flights' origins included Kabul, Afghanistan, and Morocco. The official records confirm for the first time Poland's association with the CIA's secret detainee program:

There are new and important details contained in the [documents], which provide - at the very least - confirmation of findings made in the June 2007 report of Council of Europe. These details are especially significant because they emanate from a Polish state authority and represent the first time that any agency of the Polish Government has provided public confirmation on the official record that aircraft associated with the CIA landed, repeatedly, at Szymany Airport.

In a statement, the executive director of the Justice Initiative used the report to demand accountability [press release] by the US on this issue, saying, "We are finding out the truth in Poland, and it is time for the US to come clean."

Poland has been investigating [JURIST report] the CIA's extraordinary rendition program since 2008. Under that program, terrorism suspects were seized and flown to secret locations outside the US for interrogation and imprisonment. Poland allegedly housed the largest CIA detention facility in Europe [JURIST report], but has previously denied any connection to the program. In addition to Poland, Romania and Lithuania [JURIST reports] are alleged to have housed secret CIA facilities. On his third day in office in 2009, US President Barack Obama ordered the closure [JURIST report] of all CIA secret prisons. In February 2007, the European Parliament condemned more than a dozen European states [JURIST report] for their roles in the program. Then-president George W. Bush acknowledged the existence of the secret facilities [JURIST report] in September 2006 but provided no details on their locations or operation.

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