PARIS -- Fourteen European countries appear to have helped the CIA operate a global "spider's web" of abductions, clandestine flights and secret detention facilities targeting suspected Islamic extremists, the head of a European inquiry alleged yesterday.
Presenting the findings of an eight-month inquiry, Swiss Sen. Dick Marty accused European governments of collaborating with or accepting "systematic human rights violations" on their soil as teams of U.S. spies in black ski masks allegedly spirited suspects onto planes that flew them to grueling interrogations in countries including Morocco, Syria and Egypt.
Marty singled out Romania and Poland, saying European government flight data and circumstantial evidence support accusations that they allowed secret CIA detention facilities to operate in their countries.
But during a news conference here, Marty acknowledged that he did not have hard proof.
His investigation was conducted for the Council of Europe, a regional human rights organization of governments with little formal power.
The report was based largely on European prosecutions of suspected CIA abductions, reports by nongovernmental human rights organizations and news articles, including a Washington Post article in November that first raised allegations of secret U.S. interrogation centers in Eastern Europe.
"There is no formal evidence at this stage of the existence of secret CIA detention centers in Poland, Romania or other states, even though serious indications continue to exist and grow stronger," the report said. "Nevertheless, it is clear that an unspecified number of persons, deemed to be members or accomplices of terrorist movements, were arbitrarily and unlawfully arrested and/or detained and transported under the supervision of services acting in the name, or on behalf, of the American authorities."
In response, leaders of several countries issued denials.
"These are calumnies that are not based on any fact," said Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz.
The Romanian government called Marty's conclusions "pure speculation."
And in Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "There seem to be a lot of allegations but no real facts behind it," according to Reuters.
The dispute sums up contradictions of Europe's role in a hard-nosed U.S. anti-terrorism strategy that has been waged largely outside the formal justice system.
European politicians, especially on the left, have been highly critical of extrajudicial operations.
European governments officially distance themselves from cases in which suspects are taken to third countries for interrogation, either in Middle Eastern countries with weak human rights protections or U.S. detention centers for enemy combatants such as the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
At the same time, European law enforcement and spy services are accused of working with U.S. agents in several well-documented cases among nine that were detailed in Marty's 67-page report.
In Italy and Germany, police investigations of the alleged abductions have implicated agents of Italian and German anti-terror agencies as accomplices of U.S. abductors, according to the report.
Moreover, the report describes an intricate "rendition circuit" of international flights by suspected CIA planes among recurring airports that allegedly functioned with the knowledge of European governments involved.
The same U.S. plane allegedly carried two prisoners in successive operations during a 12-day period in January 2004, the report alleges, noting flight logs and other documents.
The U.S. plane allegedly carried an Ethiopian prisoner from Rabat, Morocco, where he was said to be tortured, to Kabul, Afghanistan, the report said.
The plane then went to Macedonia and was used to fly a German captive there to Afghanistan for questioning, according to the report.
Sebastian Rotella writes for the Los Angeles Times.