Part I: Extraordinary Renditions through Spain
In its October 15th on-line edition, the Spanish newspaper El Pais ran an exposé on CIA-conducted extraordinary renditions transiting through Spain. The newspaper believes that Palma de Majorca served as a CIA operations base for several months. The following story was filed by reporter Andreu Manresa. [Subscription required].
Last June, the Guardia Civil submitted a report to the Chief Prosecutor of the Superior Court of the Balearics on an investigation of ten flights, allegedly operated by the CIA, which made a stopover at the Palma de Majorca Airport. The planes involved were identified in the course of the investigation. One of the planes matched an aircraft used by the United States for the transfer of prisoners suspected of terrorist acts from Libya to Guántanamo (Cuba), while another matched an aircraft that was flown to Baghdad (Iraq) on the day Saddam Hussein was captured. The Guardia Civil also detailed the identity of the occupants aboard the aircraft, most of whom had “diplomatic status”. A group of Spanish citizens led by Majorcan lawyer Ignasi Ribas filed a complaint months ago charging that the crimes of illegal imprisonment, kidnapping and torture were committed aboard the planes making a stopover at Son Sant Joan (Palma de Majorca) Airport. The complaint stated that the CIA was using the airport as a base of operations for aircraft used as "flying prisons" carrying individuals suspected of Islamic terrorism who had be kidnapped and were being rendered to countries where torture is routinely practiced during interrogations.
The Chief Prosecutor of the Balearics ordered the Guardia Civil to investigate the ten flights cited in a story by the newspaper Diario de Majorca and made known to the public. The complaint, filed on 14 March 2005, was then referred to Guardia Civil command for the Balearics which in turn opened an investigation The investigation relates that on least ten occasions between 22 January 2004 and 17 December 2005 four aircraft, two Boeing 747’s bearing registration numbers N313P and N4476S and two Gulfstream planes with tail numbers N8068 and N85VM had made a stopover at Palma de Majorca airport.
The CIA operations, continues the report by the Guardia Civil, were recorded by General Aviation as private aircraft.
The first flight analyzed corresponds to a Boeing 747 arriving from Algiers on 22 January 2004. A day later, it took off from Palma de Majorca heading for Macedonia. There the aircraft picked up a German national, Khaled el-Masri and took him to a Kabul prison without judicial formalities. The Munich Public Prosecutor's office is investigating the incident.
The Guardia Civil also analysed the ownershiop of the aircraft and discovered that one of the US-registered Boeing 747's was the property of Keeler and Tate Management. A service request for the aircraft was made by Jeppesen Dataplan, headquartered in California, whose business is the management of aircraft services, airport fees and overflight requests.
The Guardia Civil also discovered that the owner-operator of three of the four aircraft was Stevens Express Leasing, one of the companies which, according to a New York Times story [printed on May 31, 2005], is linked to aircraft used by the CIA for the kidnapping and rendition of suspected Islamic terrorists.
Another item of information collected by the Guardia Civil has to do with the company which made a request to the aircraft services company Assistair to clean the aircraft with tail number N85VM. The requestor was Air Routing International, headquartered in Houston. This aircraft was operated by Richmon Aviation.
The Guardia Civil’s investigation was able to identify the occupants of the various aircraft and noted that they were guests of the hotels Gran Meliá Victoria and Marriot Son Antem Llucmajor. Up to 50 United States nationals arrived aboard the investigated aircraft and stayed at those hotels. Most of them were in possession of a passport with a number beginning with 900-. Guardia Civil investigators deduced that these persons were in possession of diplomatic passports.
The Guardia Civil report concluded that no illegal activity was carried out by persons arriving on the alleged CIA aircraft during the stopover in Palma de Majorca and that, as with most private aircraft, the activities of the occupants is unknown. The Guardia Civil writes in its report that when aircraft service workers based at Son Sant Joan Airport who went aboard the aircraft noticed no structural changes inside the planes or anything unusual.
The Balearic Chief Public Prosecutor had archived the open case because, although the investigation by the Guardia Civil was able to confirm the presence of the planes, it could not substantiate links to the CIA or supply details on the missions carried out. In October, Judge Antonio García Sansaloni decided to refer the case to the Audiencia Nacional after determining that the case was beyond his jurisdiction.
At the present time, investigations have been opened in Italy and Germany into suspected involvment of CIA agents in illegal kidnappings of various nationals. The list of CIA agents involved in these kidnapping does not correspond to the occupants aboard the flights stopping over in Palma de Majorca.