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Lithuania allocates EUR 130,000 to CIA prisoner

BC, Vilnius, 16.01.2019.Print version
The Lithuanian government has transferred to a depository account 130,000 euros which the European Court of Human Rights ordered Lithuania to pay to a Saudi Arabian citizen in compensation for arbitrary detention at a secret American prison in Lithuania, informed LETA/BNS.

Carrying out a pre-trial investigation, Lithuania's law enforcement has also re-qualified the alleged crime to avoid a statute of limitations, and turned to the United States, asking for diplomatic assurances, Lithuania's Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevicius told.

Lithuania has made these steps to implement the Strasbourg court's ruling. The ECHR ruled last year that Abu Zubaydah, currently at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, was imprisoned in a secret CIA prison in Lithuania in 2005-2006.

"We have opened a depository account through a notary and transferred 130,000 euros, and informed the claimant's representative at the ECHR that the funds have been transferred and that they can claim them. We have not received any claim yet," Jankevicius told.

In his words, the experience of other countries shows that it's difficult to transfer money to Guantanamo base prisoners.

"The claimant and his authorized representative must come to Lithuania personally and provide the authorization. The authorization will be checked and, if everything is all right, the money will be transferred to the account the claimant or his authorized representative will provide. The practice of other countries shows that such money is kept for a long time and nobody claims it," the justice minister said.

Earlier, the Strasbourg court order Lithuania's law enforcement to finish as soon as possible the pre-trial investigation, launched in 2015, and to investigate "the circumstances and conditions under which the applicant was brought into Lithuania, treated in Lithuania and thereafter removed from Lithuania …, so as to enable the identification and, where appropriate, punishment of those responsible."

According to Jankevicius, Lithuanian law enforcement institutions have recently re-qualified the alleged crime. Prosecutors earlier looked into alleged unlawful cross-border transportation of people, and are now carrying out an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity.

"The pre-trial investigation continues. Due to the pre-trial investigation's classified information, we cannot disclose the specific investigation plan or any results. The criminal acts have recently been re-qualified. The investigation is now based on Article 100 of the Penal Code, and the crime has no statute of limitations," the justice minister said.

The above-mentioned article defines liability for anti-human behavior prohibited by international law. This crime is punishable by prison terms from five to 20 years in prison or life imprisonment.

The ECHR earlier called on the Lithuanian authorities "to attempt to make further representations to the US authorities with a view to removing or, at the very least seeking to limit, as far as possible, the effects of the Convention violations suffered by the applicant."

According to Jankevicius, Lithuanian diplomats have contacted US officials but no decisions have been made yet. The ongoing shutdown of part of US government institutions is undermining communication.

"The Foreign Ministry has had several meetings with US diplomats and requested diplomatic assurances but the Lithuanian institution's request has not been processed yet due to the internal situation in the US," the justice minister said.

The Americans detained Abu Zubaydah, 47, in Pakistan in 2002. The man is suspected of involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. According to the court, he was later interrogated in secret prisons in Poland, Thailand and Morocco, and was brought to Lithuania in February, 2005. He was taken out of Lithuanian in March, 2006, the Strasbourg judges concluded.

The man is still kept in detention with any formal charges.

Duffy told  earlier that Lithuania should not face major obstacles in paying the awarded compensation to Abu Zubaydah's designated person, for example, a family member.

The lawyer said Abu Zubaydah was removed from the United Nation's blacklist of persons subject to sanctions. "The obstacles for transferring the funds have been removed," she said.

A US Senate report and the evidence collected by human rights activists show that Abu Zubaydah suffered major torturing before he was brought to Lithuania. During his time in CIA detention, he lost his left eye, was water-boarded by the Americans, was sleep-deprived, was kept in a coffin-size box and was kept naked.

According to the Strasbourg court, it is likely that such brutal methods were no longer employed in Lithuania but he could have been kept blindfolded or might have been subjected to constant noise and bright light.

Representatives of the Lithuanian government at the Strasbourg court said the premises in Antaviliai, near Vilnius, were designed for an intelligence support center, and communication equipment, not people, were bought to Lithuania by the planes that caused suspicion.

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