Reprieve’s investigations have indicated that Portuguese airports in continental Europe and the Azores played a key logistical role in the secret prisons network, as common stop-off and refuelling points before and after prisoner transfers.
In the past the Portuguese authorities have been unwilling to disclose information about planes connected to the renditions programme. In response to a previous request by Reprieve and Access Info Europe, the Portuguese National Institution for Civil Aviation (INAC) claimed that requests about “CIA-related planes” should, because of the nature of the flights, be addressed not to them but to the Foreign Ministry. They also alleged that “officially” they did not possess records of such planes. This stance was overruled by Portugal’s Commission on Access to Administrative Documents (CADA), however, which declared that INAC is under a positive obligation to disclose whatever information they might have.
Meanwhile, in a landslide ruling earlier this week, the European Parliament adopted a new resolution on European complicity in secret detention by the CIA, in which it called on member states, including specifically Portugal, to “disclose all necessary information on all suspect planes associated with the CIA and their territory” and expressed concern that they had not already done so.
Reprieve and Access Info Europe have therefore this week filed a new request for all available information relating to 39 planes which landed in Portuguese airports between 2003 and 2006. These include the flight of Miami Air’s N733MA, which landed in Porto on 25 March 2006. It then filed a false flight plan to Finland, went instead to Lithuania, recorded its return to Porto but in fact proceeded to Cairo, where it connected with another plane bound for Afghanistan. Its movements, revealed by Reprieve earlier this week, were incorrectly reported by the Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry into CIA prisons.
Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “Despite considerable evidence of Portugal’s role in supporting the CIA’s secret detention programme, previous information releases by the Portuguese authorities have been tardy, grudging and partial. In the light of the CADA’s ruling and the Parliament’s strong statement, we’re hoping for a rapid and comprehensive response.”