KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters) - Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged “black site.”
Human rights groups and lawyers have argued for years that Poland allowed the Central Intelligence Agency to use the site, an intelligence training academy in north-east Poland, to detain and interrogate men it suspected of being al Qaeda leaders.
On Thursday, The Washington Post newspaper cited what it said were former CIA officers as saying that the agency paid $15 million to Polish intelligence in 2003 for use of the site, handing over the cash in two cardboard boxes.
Piotr Kosmaty, spokesman for prosecutors in the Polish city of Krakow who are pursuing a criminal investigation into allegations about the facility, said it was possible the newspaper report contained evidence about the case.
“In the course of the investigation that is underway, we will analyze this Washington Post article and will include it in our investigation,” Kosmaty told Reuters.
The Washington Post article said the CIA declined to comment when it inquired about the Polish site.
The case goes to the heart of the CIA’s program of “extraordinary rendition” in which suspected al Qaeda militants were moved around the world and subjected to interrogation techniques that rights campaigners say amounted to torture.
It would be a crime if Polish officials colluded in any way in illegal detention or torture. Politicians who held senior posts at the time could be prosecuted.
Polish officials have denied the existence of a secret CIA jail on their soil. But they also say cooperation with U.S. intelligence is vital for Poland’s national security.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference on Friday: “These allegations that appear in the public sphere are allegations about prisons and torture committed by the CIA, not Poles but Americans.”
“Irrespective of what prosecutors determine with regard to the responsibility of Poland’s civil servants in this case, our role is to guard the interests of the Polish state,” he said.
Rights campaigners say that Polish prosecutors already have hard evidence about the jail and the role that Polish officials played. But they accuse the authorities of putting off prosecutions because of the likely political fallout.
The investigation has been running for five years, with no outward signs of progress. Prosecutors deny dragging their feet, saying the case is complex and time-consuming.
The Washington Post report included new accounts of what happened at the alleged CIA jail.
The paper’s sources described how two interrogators were pulled out of Poland after word reached their superiors that they had used a mock execution on a detainee.
The newspaper quoted the former CIA officials describing how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities, was subjected to water boarding while at the Polish facility.
They described how he initially resisted, counting down the seconds before he knew the water boarding - or simulated drowning - would stop, but that he later gave up information to his interrogators.
Mohammed is now being held at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, awaiting a possible military trial.
Additional reporting by Marcin Goettig in WARSAW; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall