Probe urged over Scottish role in rendition flights

An alleged rendition flight on the runway at Prestwick airport. Picture: Stuart Mitchell
An alleged rendition flight on the runway at Prestwick airport. Picture: Stuart Mitchell
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THE Lord Advocate is being urged to instigate a criminal investigation into CIA-linked planes allegedly landing at Scottish airports in a US rendition programme used to interrogate terrorist suspects.

Researchers carrying out a three-year study of the policy, led by US secret services, claim to have “conclusive” proof pinpointing 13 planes that landed at airports in Aberdeen, Wick and Inverness.

Highland MSP John Finnie told The Scotsman he wrote last week to Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, seeking an investigation into “criminal activity” on Scottish soil. Mr Finnie, an independent MSP since quitting the SNP over its backing of Nato membership, said: “It is important that if crimes are committed in Scotland, the perpetrators are punished.”

In his letter to the Lord Advocate, he said: “I am sure you will recognise that a quest to establish the facts, whatever the outcome, will ensure reputational damage to our nation by our association with the complicity in the rendition process by the UK government, is minimised.”

The UK government is under increasing pressure to examine the new data that claims to reveal the extent of CIA flights operated through UK airports, including Aberdeen, Wick, Inverness, Glasgow and Prestwick.

The research found more than 1,620 flights in and out of the UK by aircraft documented as being involved in alleged rendition.

The programme involves prisoners being covertly transported for interrogation and allegedly torture. The researchers are unable to show evidence that detainees were on board while the planes were on Scottish soil.

The Foreign Office said last night that the US had assured the UK government that no flights that landed in Britain since September 2001 – bar two – had detainees on board.

But they were unable to say whether planes used in the process of rendition had passed through British airports.

The Rendition Project study by Sam Raphael from Kingston University and Ruth Blakely from Kent University claims five flights with CIA links landed at Wick, Caithness, a further five at Inverness, and three at Aberdeen International Airport.

The new details appear to show that several aircraft subsequently landed at destinations where it is claimed many terrorist suspects were tortured.

Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “This shocking study brings up more questions about these horrific flights. What was the involvement of the UK government in aiding the CIA-linked flights as they ferry detainees to places of torture?”

SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, Kevin Stewart, said: “It is not acceptable that we should be complicit in acts of torture and abduction.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have been assured by the UK government that permission for rendition flights would only ever be granted if the UK government was satisfied that the rendition would accord with UK laws.”

A Crown Office spokesman said: “”Torture, an attempt to commit torture, or conspiracy to commit torture are crimes punishable under Scots law.

“Where evidence exists to support allegations that such crimes have been committed within Scottish jurisdiction, or that torture has been committed elsewhere by or at the instigation of a public official, the police are responsible for conducting appropriate investigations and reporting such cases to the Procurator Fiscal.

“The Scottish police did not receive any specific reports of incidents involving so called rendition flights and consequently no reports of cases were submitted to the COPFS. Anyone who has any evidence that Scottish Airports were used for rendition should make this evidence available to Police Scotland.”