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New inquest opens into CIA leak

The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Bern Keystone

The Federal Prosecutor's Office has announced it will investigate the leak and publication of secret information on alleged CIA prisons in Europe.

The principal aim of the enquiry, which comes a day after military prosecutors opened an investigation into a newspaper editor and two journalists, is to find the source of the leak.

On Sunday the SonntagsBlick newspaper reported that Swiss military intelligence had intercepted a fax received by the Egyptian embassy in London supposedly confirming the existence of the detention centres.

The message was picked up by the secret service’s Onyx satellite listening system on November 10, just three days after the Council of Europe launched its investigation into allegations that the CIA has been running secret interrogation centres in Europe.

The Egyptian fax stated that 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens had been transferred to a Romanian military base near the port of Constanza for interrogation purposes. It added that similar detention centres had been set up in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria.

The SonntagsBlick’s story is based on a document leaked from military intelligence. The complete contents of the report are classified as “secret”.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is investigating a possible breach of official secrets by the SonntagsBlick editor as well as two journalists at the newspaper, said spokesman Hansjürg Mark Wiedmer.

Publishing a secret document can be a violation of Swiss law punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Swiss credibility

Dick Marty, head of a European investigation into alleged CIA prisons in Europe, said on Tuesday that the fax is a new lead which must be followed up.

But Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian who is leading the probe on behalf of the Council of Europe, said it was still not clear whether the document was genuine.

Marty also said he wondered how Swiss intelligence intercepted a fax allegedly sent from Egypt to London. “It’s the first time these allegations come directly from an Arab country,” he said.

Also on Tuesday a Swiss parliamentary sub-committee looking into the affair said Switzerland’s credibility had been damaged and called on the government to act.

It said it was particularly concerned about relations with the United States, with which Switzerland is currently negotiating a free-trade accord. It also feared diplomatic tensions with Bulgaria and Romania.

International fallout

Romania’s Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said on Tuesday that the country’s planned membership of the European Union would not be delayed over allegations that Romania hosted secret CIA detention centres.

Tariceanu said he had written to European Parliament President Josep Borrell informing him that Romania’s Senate was investigating the allegations. Romania hopes to join the EU in 2007.

Tariceanu reiterated a denial that Romania hosted CIA detention centres, adding that the country would cooperate “promptly and positively” with all investigations.

Ukraine also vehemently denied on Tuesday the existence of secret CIA prisons on Ukrainian soil.

“The very raising of that issue is absurd,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Vasiliy Filipchuk told reporters.

swissinfo with agencies

On Sunday the Swiss paper SonntagsBlick published a confidential fax sent by Egypt’s foreign ministry to the Egyptian embassy in London, intercepted by the Swiss intelligence service in November, confirming the existence of secret prisons in Europe.
Swiss politicians fear the affair will discredit the Swiss intelligence agencies and on Tuesday a parliamentary sub-committee called on the government to act.
On Monday military prosecutors in Switzerland opened an investigation into a newspaper editor and two journalists, suspected of publishing military secrets.

June 2004: Human Rights Watch claims that the United States is detaining alleged terrorists at more than a dozen secret locations around the world.

November 2, 2005: The Washington Post reports that the CIA is detaining members of al-Qaeda in eight eastern European countries and Asia.

November 7: Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty is appointed head of a Council of Europe inquiry into the allegations.

December 8: The American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, refuses to answer questions on the subject during a tour of Europe.

December 14: The Swiss parliament demands a report from the government on alleged CIA transit flights in Swiss airspace.

January 8, 2006: The SonntagsBlick newspaper claims to have intercepted a fax from the Egyptian government confirming the detention centres.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR