Part III: Extraordinary Renditions through Spain: The Denial
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Bono affirms that there is no proof that the United States committed any illegal act relating to CIA flights to Spain.
Defense Minister José Bono has declared that the Spanish Government possesses no proof or evidence that the United States committed illegal acts related to the alleged use of Palma de Majorca airport as an intermediate stop for CIA planes rendering prisoners to secret detention centers as reported in today’s EL PAIS. I am not prepared to pillory the Government or an allied nation for baseless suppositions for which there is no proof, evidence or foundation, explained Bono. Furthermore, the Defense Minister said he was not prepared to encourage anti-American sentiment: I am not only happy to defend nations which are allied and friendly to Spain but it is my duty as Defense Minister.
When asked about a report in El Pais that the Centro Nacional de Inteligencia had asked the CIA to refrain from using Spanish airports in the rendition of prisoners, Bono rejected the idea: One cannot implicate the CNI as an approving or justifying agency in something for which there is no genuine proof or evidence. Therefore, I am unable to blame [CNI] for rumors or suppositions involving a government which is allied and friendly to Spain.
Meanwhile, Spanish Interior Minister José Antonio Alonso appealed for caution pending the conclusions of an ongoing judicial investigation. In an interview with TV station Telecinque, Alonso said that it would be up to the Spanish judicial authorities to establish the possible existence of secret US flights transporting prisoners to detention centers in third countries. Alonso also emphasized that state security forces and agents, particularly the Guardia Civil, had already done their job and that now the matter was in the hands of the judiciary. Should the flights be confirmed, said Alonso, they would be considered very grave and intolerable act and would constitute a grievous infraction and violation of Spanish law.
Spain should have full knowledge of the cargo aboard any means of transportation, in this case an aircraft, that passes through its territory, if for no other reason than to uphold the law, Alonso added.
The flights, 10 in all, have been revealed through an investigation conducted by the Guardia Civil, which submitted a report last June to the Chief Prosecutor of the Superior Court of the Balearics citing a complaint filed by a citizens’ group headed by the Majorcan lawyer Ignasi Ribas. The complaint, motivated by a story published in a newspaper, Diario de Mallorca, alleges unlawful arrest, kidnapping and torture during the use by the CIA of Son San Joan Airport as a stop on the way to an archipelago of secret detention centers where suspected Islamic terrorists are incarcerated.
Besides reporting the existence of the flights, the first of which landed at Palma de Majorca’s airport on 22 January 2004, the Guardia Civil documented that the four aircraft involved were US-registered and that the owner-operator was a company called Stevens Express Leasing, one of several companies cited by the New York Times [Article appeared on May 31, 2005] used as cover for the CIA.
Despite its findings, the Guardia Civil concluded in its report that there was no evidence of illicit activity and that it had no information on the activities of the occupants of the aircraft. The Balearic Public Prosecutor archived the case soon after the complaint was filed. However, Judge Antonio García Sansaloni decided last October to transfer the dossier to the Audiencia Nacional after determining that he did now have the necessary authority to handle the case.