Did the CIA run torture prison 'black site' in Poland?

Jun 22, 2012
Ben Raworth

Inquiry into secret prison threatens to entangle former top Polish officials

A SENIOR Polish politician said this week that he had information that showed a contractor was commissioned to build a "cage" for Stare Kiejkuty, a Polish army base alleged to be a Central Intelligence Agency "black site" used to house terrorism suspects.

Senator Jozef Pinior, a member of Poland's upper house, told Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza the cage was not used "to house exotic birds".

"Is this standard for a prison? Yes, if it's one where torture was used," the senator claimed in an interview with the newspaper. "In a country where there is rule of law, normal prisons do not keep people in cages."

That CIA "black sites" existed in Eastern Europe has long been suspected. Last year our columnist Crispin Black detailed the exposure of a torture prison in Bucharest, Romania.

This week's revelations centre on the contract for the cage, and could result in criminal charges against Poland's former spy chief and, some say, senior political leaders, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Polish prosecutors are building their case based around Stare Kiejkuty.

According to a source at the Krakow Prosecutor's Office that is handling the investigation, a document commissioning the cage was prepared in late 2001, early 2002, in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the US.

The Americans "did not want to leave traces [of evidence]" a source told Gazeta Wyborcza, commenting on the fact that the document was only signed by former head of Poland's Intelligence Agency (ABW), Zbigniew Siemiatkowski.

When queried about the document, Siemiatkowski stated that if his signature is present, it means that the document is classified, and that he is unable to talk about it. He did not confirm the existence of such an agreement.

In 2011, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, made an unequivocal statement on the matter.

"It is clear that Poland hosted secret CIA prisons between December
2002 and September 2003. We know who was held there and what interrogation methods were used. They can be described as torture."

Leszek Miller was prime minister of Poland at that time, at the head of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) government. He has repeatedly denied knowledge of black sites such as the one at Stare Kiejkuty, which is alleged to have been located in a villa near the base in northeast Poland.

Former president Aleksander Kwasniewski has also made several denials regarding the existence of the site. However, in May this year, he appeared to suggest that there was more to the allegations than he initially indicated.

Of course everything went on behind my back," he told Gazeta Wyborcza.

Two men, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, have already been granted victim status by Polish prosecutors, after claiming that they were held in the alleged torture camps.

[Chained person image via Shutterstock]

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