- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A human rights organization and lawyers for a Saudi man accused in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole demanded Tuesday that Polish prosecutors investigate the terror suspect’s detention and treatment at a CIA prison once housed in Poland.

A Polish attorney working in conjunction with the Open Society Justice Initiative group filed a lengthy petition Tuesday in Warsaw with prosecutors — a move that rights advocates hope will spur similar efforts elsewhere in Europe.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is the first detainee subjected to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program who has taken legal action in Poland, said Amrit Singh, the justice initiative’s senior legal officer. Mikolaj Pietrzak, who represents al-Nashiri in Poland, told the Associated Press he filed the petition.

“We hope that the prosecutor will heed this call for a serious investigation into al-Nashiri’s ill-treatment on Polish soil,” Ms. Singh said. “The quest for accountability for the CIA’s illegal rendition program must continue in Europe, especially as U.S. courts appear to be closing their doors to victims of this program.”

Polish prosecutors have already been examining the country’s involvement in a now-shuttered U.S. system of secret prisons around the globe. Inside the so-called black sites, terror detainees were exposed to harsh interrogation methods such as the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding — a practice that critics have called torture.

Prosecutor Jerzy Mierzewski said Mr. Pietrzak’s petition would likely be wrapped into his office’s overall probe.

“It does not require the opening of a separate investigation,” he said, adding that he still had to study the documents in detail.

The prosecutors are investigating possible abuse of power by Polish public officials in connection with the closed CIA black site near the secluded Szymany airport in northeast Poland. Flight logs trace several landings of planes linked to the CIA there. Prosecutors have been looking into the site since 2008 but have not yet filed charges.

Polish media have reported that prosecutors are considering war crimes charges against former President Aleksander Kwasniewski and two other officials in connection with the CIA prison site. Mr. Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, has said he was unaware of the CIA prison.

Following the AP’s report earlier this month on al-Nashiri’s treatment, Leszek Miller, Poland’s prime minister at the time, flatly denied the existence of any such facility, saying there were “no secret CIA prisons in Poland.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Miller told the AP in a telephone interview he had no comment on the petition or on whether Poland housed a CIA secret prison.

“Anybody can say what they want on the matter,” Mr. Miller said.

According to several former U.S. intelligence officials, the CIA’s prison in Poland — code-named “Quartz” — was shut down in late 2003. The officials spoke about the prison and al-Nashiri’s case on the condition of anonymity because details of the secret program remain classified.

Al-Nashiri is accused of masterminding the plot to bomb the US Navy destroyer, which was crippled on Oct. 12, 2000, by a blast detonated by a speedboat packed with explosives in the Yemeni port of Aden. The attack killed 17 American sailors and left 39 injured.

The former U.S. intelligence officials told the AP that Al-Nashiri was captured in Dubai in November 2002 and first taken to another CIA secret prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. After a brief stay, he was flown to a CIA prison in Thailand before being taken to Poland on Dec. 5, 2002, along with accused terrorist Abu Zubayda, the former officials said.

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