Portugal: Evidence of illegal CIA rendition flights surfacing


On 6 September 2006, the Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes wrote an urgent letter to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Luís Amado, after the reply to a letter which she sent to his predecessor revealed that the Portuguese authorities were aware of the suspicious flights that had transited through the country's airports, although they denied any knowledge of the activities for which they were used.

Gomes requested details about three aircraft - departure and arrival dates and times, the names of crew members, passengers, the nature of the cargo they carried, as well as whether any of them were checked by Portuguese security, customs or aviation authorities, and whether Portuguese authorities were aware of certain unorthodox practices that took place. One of the planes landed in Porto airport on 23 December 2005 without any record of its departure being made, although it subsequently stopped in Porto airport again a week later, on 1 January 2006, before setting off for New York. The second transited through Santa Maria airport in the Azores, on its way from Memphis (US) to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).

Gomes requested that providing clarifications concerning the third aircraft should be treated as a matter of "maximum urgency", as it landed in Santa Maria airport on 7 November 2003 after arriving from Guantanamo, and subsequently set off for Tuzla (Bosnia). The MEP also reveals that sources from the airport authorities in Porto informed her about the fact that external markings and number plates had been changed during some of the stopovers.

A report in Expresso magazine (n.1767), published information concerning the third aircraft, which is described as having carried an Al Qaida suspect, Abdurahman Khadr, who left the Guantánamo base in Cuba on 6 November 2003, landing on Portuguese territory at 3.08 on the following day, at Santa Maria airport, on a 19-seater Gulfstream 4 jet aircraft registered under the serial number N85VM belonging to Richmore Aviation. He is quoted in the report as stating:

"I remember the humid weather, and the man wearing a coat who was waiting on the landing strip, got on to speak to the CIA agents and got off immediately afterwards, and the huge yellow 'Santa Maria Airport' sign".

Khadr, who is described as the son of a founder of Al Qaida and a reluctant participant in its training activities, was arrested as a 17-year-old during the war in Afghanistan in late 2001 carrying a weapon, and spent some months in detention in Baghram airbase near Kabul, before being transported to Guantanamo, where he decided to collaborate with his captors. In his trip to Bosnia, he was tasked to infiltrate the Muslim community in Sarajevo to identify Al Qaida recruiters. He now resides in Canada. Almost 150 suspected CIA flights have reportedly been identified as having travelled through Portugal.

Sources

Letter from Ana Gomes to Luís Amado, 6 September 2006 (in Portuguese)
Letter from Ana Gomes to Luís Amado, 6 September 2006 (in English, translated by Statewatch)
Report from Expresso magazine, n.1767 (in Portuguese), doc. PE 378.661
Report from Expresso magazine n.1767 (in English), doc. PE 378.661

Previous Statewatch coverage:
Renditions: Portuguese government admits knowledge of CIA flights



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