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Crunch weeks ahead for Europe's CIA probes

Written by: Staff
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BERLIN, Apr 13 (Reuters) After months without a breakthrough, European investigators probing alleged CIA abuses in the war on terrorism are starting to sound more hopeful and will seek new evidence in the next few weeks.

A Washington Post report last November that the US Central Intelligence Agency had run secret prisons in Eastern Europe for al Qaeda suspects unleashed a spate of investigations which have so far failed to produce a ''smoking gun''.

But after several months when the issue largely faded from view, two developments in the past eight days have generated new headlines.

First Amnesty International detailed the case of three Yemeni men who were held for 13 months until May 2005 at a secret US facility, possibly in Eastern Europe.

Then the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation, said yesterday at least one European state had admitted to handing over terrorism suspects to foreign agents.

''We have received official acknowledgement of 'handing over' individuals to foreign officials'' in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Council head Terry Davis said, declining to name the country involved.

He may have been referring to Sweden, where a parliamentary ombudsman has criticised the security services over the expulsion of two Egyptian terrorism suspects who were handed over to US agents and flown home aboard a US government-leased plane in 2001. Human Rights Watch has said there is credible evidence they were later tortured.

The Swedish government declined this week to comment, but opposition lawmaker Cecilia Wikstrom told Reuters: ''I would put some money on Sweden. I would not be surprised if it's Sweden that he (Davis) meant.'' Sarah Ludford, a British Liberal Democrat member of a European Parliament committee investigating CIA prisons and secret flights across Europe, agreed Sweden was an obvious possibility but it would be ''intriguing'' if Davis was on to something new.

MORE REUTERS SHB PM1939

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