2019.11.11 10:07

Lithuania to counter second claim of secret CIA prison near Vilnius

Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS 2019.11.11 10:07

Lithuania plans to present its position to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in response to Saudi national's claim that he was unlawfully held in a secret CIA prison in Lithuania between 2005 and 2006.

Until now, the government has categorically denied that the country hosted CIA a detention facility for terror suspects.

Mustafa al-Hawsawi, 51, is currently being held at the US military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. The man, who is suspected by the US of involvement in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, was captured in Pakistan in 2003.

The man's defence lawyers say in their petition that he could have been brought to Lithuania in February or October 2005 and taken out of the country in March 2006.

In response to Lithuania's request, the Strasbourg court has several times postponed the deadline for the government to present its position. Initially, the country was supposed to send its response in August, and the deadline was later postponed to October 31. Lithuania has recently requested to postpone it once again until November 29. Prosecutors have rejected lawyers' requests to grant Hawsawi the victim's status.

Karolina Bubnytė-Širmenė, Lithuania's representative at the ECHR, told BNS the reason for extension was her maternity leave and the need for a new permission to work with classified information.

This is the second claim brought against Lithuania in the Strasbourg court in relation to allegations that the country hosted a secret CIA prison more than a decade ago.

Last May, the ECHR ruled that the CIA had secretly held Abu Zubaydah, another Saudi terror suspect, in Lithuania.

The court ordered Lithuania to pay Zubaydah 130,000 euros in damages for human rights violations. The government has placed the money into a depository account.

In the first case, Lithuanian government officials told the Strasbourg court that the suspected building in Antaviliai, in the outskirts of Vilnius, had been "an intelligence support center" and that the suspected planes had transported communication equipment rather than people to Lithuania.

A pre-trial investigation into the allegations that Lithuania hosted a secret CIA detention site is still ongoing.