By David Lindsay in the Malta Independent
Following last week’s report that at least two planes, widely suspected of being used by the United States Intelligence Agency in its controversial practice of extraordinary rendition, had made stopovers in Malta, this newspaper can report the presence of yet another, larger, suspected aircraft at Malta International Airport on two occasions just last year.
With more European governments joining the protest over the CIA’s use of their airspace and airports in the controversial practice of extraordinary rendition, and with the Council of Europe also investigating the practice, the government of Malta has so far remained silent on the issue, undoubtedly otherwise absorbed by this week’s CHOGM activities.
The Malta Independent on Sunday last week reported flight records and photographs showed that at least two airplanes used by the CIA for the transport of suspected terrorists for interrogation in countries where the use of torture is condoned, had stopped over in Malta in December 2003 and December 2004.
Ongoing investigations by this newspaper into the use of Malta’s airport and airspace by the CIA have revealed the presence of another suspected plane ‘ a Lockheed L-100 Hercules with tail number N8213G, which stopped over in Malta on 31 March 2004 and again on 25 August of the same year.
The Hercules is the latest plane implicated in extraordinary rendition and has been reported to have made several stops in Scandinavia. The Hercules, the largest of the CIA planes spotted in Malta, has space for cargo and about 100 passengers.
While the Boeing 737 and the Gulfstream are relatively nondescript aircraft, the Hercules carries a large ‘Prescott’ logo on its side. The private planes being used by the CIA are owned by shell companies and the Prescott Support company is widely believed to be one of the several companies serving as covers for the CIA’s clandestine prisoner transports.
Extraordinary rendition refers to the controversial American procedure in which criminal suspects are apprehended, sometimes secretly, and sent for interrogation in countries where torture is used as a routine form of interrogation. Reports cite suspects being arrested, shackled, blindfolded and sedated, after which they are transported, usually by private jet, to countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Uzbekistan. Although the practice has been in use since the 1990s, its scope has been widened immensely since 11 September 2001.
Last Sunday this newspaper cited a Boeing 737, with tail number N313P, as the first suspected plane to have stopped over in Malta between 6 and 10 December 2003. The plane had arrived from the RAF’s Northolt air base on 6 December 2003 and left four days later on 10 December bound for Tripoli. A year later a second plane, a Gulfstream jet with tail number N227SV, arrived in Malta on 17 December 2004 and left later that day for Iceland, from where it flew to Washington DC.