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Cabinet "was not aware" of CIA flights

The Swiss have demanded information from the US concerning the flights Keystone

A parliamentary sub-committee has cleared the cabinet of having knowledge about alleged overflights in Swiss airspace of CIA planes carrying prisoners.

This content was published on January 31, 2006 - 17:07

Presenting its findings on Tuesday, the committee added that the government had no evidence of illegal flights or the existence of CIA detention centres in Europe.

Only in one case was there any reason for suspicion, said Hans Hofmann, head of the sub-committee.

This involved a plane which flew across Switzerland twice on the same day two years ago – between Germany and Italy – reportedly carrying a radical imam abducted by the CIA.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office is investigating the case.

Since 2001, the Swiss Federal Civil Aviation Office has counted at least 73 flights over Switzerland by planes registered in the United States and suspected of being used by the CIA.

They included four flights which touched down in Geneva, but Hofmann said there were no longer any grounds for suspicion concerning these cases.

Praise

The committee praised the Swiss foreign ministry for its determination in demanding clarification from Washington concerning the flights. Hofmann said Switzerland had yet to receive an answer.

"In regard to the US, the Swiss foreign ministry has done everything it could considering the sparse information available," the committee said in its report.

Hofmann said since Switzerland was still waiting for a response from Washington, it had decided not to grant permission for overflights by non-commercial US aircraft for 2006, but only extended the rights until the end of January.

The cabinet will decide on Wednesday whether to grant the US a further extension.

The committee dismissed as insignificant an Egyptian government fax intercepted by the Swiss secret services, saying it shed no new light - contrary to suggestions by Switzerland's tabloid SonntagsBlick newspaper - on the existence of secret CIA prisons.

SonntagsBlick published the fax story in early January. Egypt lodged a formal complaint over the affair.

Hofmann said the government's decision to keep the fax classified was justified since going public with the information would have compromised the work of the intelligence services.

Human Rights Watch

The newly opened Zurich branch of the non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Watch, also commented on Tuesday on the Swiss government's role in the affair.

It criticised Switzerland for not doing enough to support the Council of Europe investigation into secret prisons.

It said Switzerland should apply pressure on governments in eastern Europe to provide more details on allegations that the CIA set up detention centres in their countries.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

At least 73 flights were made over Switzerland by US planes suspected of being used by the CIA between 2001 and December 2005, according to the Swiss Federal Civil Aviation Office.
Four of these flights touched down in Geneva.

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In brief

Swiss senator Dick Marty is heading an investigation into the affair for the Council of Europe.

In an interim report released one week ago, Marty said he had no concrete proof of CIA detention centres in eastern Europe or elsewhere.

However, he said European governments probably knew about CIA abductions and the transfer of detainees through European airspace.

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