Revealed: Police investigate evidence that six CIA torture flights landed in Scotland
And the Sunday Mail can reveal that elite detectives are also probing five other stopovers in Scotland, which researchers suspect were part of CIA “rendition circuits” to move terror suspects between secret jails and torture sites.
A rendition circuit was a series of flights by a CIA aircraft, often leaving the US, picking up suspects from one
foreign prison, taking them to another and then returning to America.
Researchers from pressure group The Rendition Project say jets would stop in Scotland on the outward or return legs.
The six stops police are understood to be focusing on – four at Prestwick and two at Glasgow – are “known or highly likely” to have been part of rendition circuits.
A seventh flight is suspected but unconfirmed and the experts believe there may have been many more.
They say CIA aircraft made hundreds of stops at airports around Scotland which they suspect were linked in some way to rendition.
Chief al-Qaeda strategist Mohammed, the brains behind the 9/11 atrocity, was arrested in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and taken to the US base at Bagram in Afghanistan.
Next day, according to the researchers, a CIA jet left Dulles airport in Washington and flew to Bagram, via Prague and Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
The experts suspect that the plane collected Mohammed and took him to a secret prison – or “black site” – in Poland.
He later claimed he was tortured there for six months. He said the CIA told him they would not let him die but
would take him “to the verge of death and back again”.
Mohammed said he was beaten, forced to stand for hours on end and hosed down with water. He also claimed his interrogators put a plastic collar round his neck and used it to repeatedly slam his head against a wall.
And he alleged he was subjected five times to waterboarding, where a suspect is suspended upside-down and his face is forced into a water-soaked cloth, preventing him from breathing.
The researchers’ evidence suggests that after delivering Mohammed to Poland, the CIA jet returned to Prague.
It then allegedly flew on to Glasgow on March 8, where it spent 24 hours before heading back to Washington.
The Rendition Project also suspect that another of the architects of 9/11, Yemeni fanatic Ramzi bin al Shibh, was
rendered from Morocco to Poland the month before Mohammed by a jet which then stopped at Prestwick.
Detectives from the Major Crime and Terrorism Investigation Unit, based at Govan police station in Glasgow, are
probing the possible involvement of Scotland in rendition flights and speaking to potential witnesses.
A previous investigation in 2007 and 2008 found insufficient evidence to back the claims, but Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC asked police last year to reopen the inquiry.
He said at the time: “There should be no dilly-dallying. I am confident the police will conduct a thorough inquiry.
“The use of torture cannot be condoned. It is against international law and the common law of Scotland.”
At Mulholland’s request, detectives are looking at evidence compiled by the Rendition Project, led by Dr Sam Raphael of Kingston University in London and Dr Ruth Blakeley of the University of Kent.
Raphael and Blakeley say they have detailed information on CIA stops in Scotland, including that of the jet which
possibly took Mohammed to Poland and the five other “known or highly likely” rendition flights.
They believe that 50 aircraft linked to renditions landed in Scotland between September 2001 and September 2006. Flights allegedly used Prestwick, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Wick, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee and RAF Leuchars.
Raphael and Blakeley believe another 83 CIA flights stopped in Scotland on the way to or from countries known to be involved in secret detentions, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
The Rendition Project say these flights may have carried prisoners, or provided support for the programme by taking interrogators or supplies to black sites.
Raphael and Blakeley say five of the “known or highly likely” flights, including the one which possibly transported Mohammed, involved Gulfstream jet N379P.
It was known as the Guantanamo Express because it flew suspects to the notorious US detention centre in Cuba. Mohammed remains there to this day.
The researchers believe N379P stopped in Prestwick in December 2001 after taking two Egyptian suspects, Mohamed el-Zery and Ahmed Agiza, from Sweden to a torture site in Cairo.
The pair later alleged they were put on the plane after being dressed in nappies and overalls, hooded, handcuffed and bound at the ankles. Once aboard, they were strapped down on a mattress.
In Cairo, Agiza alleges torturers put electrodes on his genitals and threatened to kill him and rape his family.
El-Zery claims he was blindfolded for two months, given shocks to his ears, nipples and genitals, and held in a 5ft by 5ft cell for 10 months. Both men are now free.
Raphael and Blakeley also suspect that N379P went through Prestwick on January 15, 2002, after a rendition
operation involving another Egyptian, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni.
Madni had been arrested in Jakarta, Indonesia, at the request of the CIA.
He claimed he was beaten up in Indonesia by an Egyptian intelligence agent , then handcuffed, put in leg irons and taken aboard the CIA plane, where he was shut inside a wooden box.
Madni said he was taken to Cairo and interrogated for 12 to 15 hours at a time about Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden. When he failed to provide answers, he was given electric shocks.
He claimed he spent three months in a 6ft by 4ft room before the Americans flew him to Afghanistan, where he was regularly beaten and placed in the “strappado” position – hanging from the ceiling with his feet barely touching the ground.
A year later, he was flown to Guantanamo, where he twice tried to hang himself. He was freed without charge in 2008.
Raphael told us: “We welcome the police investigation. It needs to be robust and comprehensive to get to the bottom of Scottish involvement in these crimes.
“The Rendition Project last year released the largest public set of evidence regarding rendition flights in the ‘war on terror’.
“We have demonstrated conclusively that CIA aircraft landed at Scottish airports hundreds of times between
2001 and 2006, when the Agency was operating its global system of rendition, secret detention and torture.
“We have also documented specific cases where Scottish airports played a key logistical role in operations where
individuals were transferred illegally by the CIA and tortured in secret.”
Raphael called on the Scots detectives to study the US Senate’s 6300-page Torture Report, now being declassifed.
He said: “Details in there would confirm for sure what role Scotland played.”
He also urged police to study documents from the Detainee Inquiry in London, which closed at the end of last year.
The Crown Office said it would be inappropriate to comment on a live investigation. Police said: “Inquiries into the matter are ongoing.”