Poland nudged to investigate acts in CIA prison
Accused in 2000 bombing says he was tortured there
WARSAW — A human rights organization and lawyers for a Saudi man accused in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole demanded yesterday that Polish prosecutors investigate the terror suspect’s detention and treatment at a CIA prison once housed in Poland.
Abd Rahim Nashiri is the first detainee subjected to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program who has taken legal action in Poland, said Amrit Singh, a senior legal officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Mikolaj Pietrzak, an attorney who represents Nashiri in Poland, said he filed the petition yesterday with prosecutors in Warsaw.
The legal move in Poland could spawn similar efforts in Romania and Lithuania, which former US intelligence officials and critics have identified as nations that hosted some of the CIA’s so-called black sites. Public outcry against the abandoned CIA program remains strong in Europe while lawyers for detainees and civil liberties activists have had limited success in US courts in shedding new light on the secret prisons.
“We hope that the prosecutor will heed this call for a serious investigation into Nashiri’s ill-treatment on Polish soil,’’ Singh said. “The quest for accountability for the CIA’s illegal rendition program must continue in Europe, especially as US courts appear to be closing their doors to victims of this program.’’
Polish prosecutors have already been examining the country’s involvement in a now-shuttered US system of secret prisons around the globe. Inside the black sites, terror detainees were exposed to harsh interrogation methods such as the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding — a practice that critics have called torture.
Prosecutor Jerzy Mierzewski in Warsaw said Pietrzak’s petition would probably be wrapped into his office’s overall probe.
“It does not require the opening of a separate investigation,’’ he said, adding that he still had to study the documents.
The prosecutors are investigating possible abuse of power by Polish public officials in connection with the closed CIA black site near the secluded Szymany airport in northeast Poland. Flight logs trace several landings of planes linked to the CIA there. Prosecutors have been looking into the site since 2008 but have not yet filed charges.
Polish media have reported that prosecutors are considering war crimes charges against former president Aleksander Kwasniewski and two other officials in connection with the CIA prison site. Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, has said he was unaware of the CIA prison.
Leszek Miller, Poland’s prime minister at the time, earlier this month flatly denied the existence of any such facility, saying there were “no secret CIA prisons in Poland.’’
Yesterday, Miller said he had no comment on the petition or on whether Poland housed a CIA secret prison.
“Anybody can say what they want on the matter,’’ Miller said.
According to several former US intelligence officials, the CIA’s prison in Poland — code-named “Quartz’’ — was shut down in late 2003. The officials spoke about the prison and Nashiri’s case on condition of anonymity because details of the secret program remain classified.
Nashiri is accused of masterminding the plot to bomb the US Navy destroyer, which was crippled on Oct. 12, 2000, by a blast detonated by a speedboat packed with explosives in the Yemeni port of Aden. The attack killed 17 American sailors and left 39 injured.
The former US intelligence officials said that Nashiri was captured in Dubai in November 2002 and first taken to another CIA secret prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. After a brief stay, he was flown to a CIA prison in Thailand before being taken to Poland on Dec. 5, 2002, along with accused terrorist Abu Zubayda, the former officials said.
According to the former intelligence officials and an internal CIA special review of the program, an agency officer named Albert revved a bitless power drill near the head of a naked and hooded Nashiri while he was held in the Polish prison. The CIA officer also took an unloaded semiautomatic handgun to the cell where Nashiri was shackled and racked the weapon’s ammunition chamber once or twice next to his head, the review reported.