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Police investigation into rendition is a charade

Scotland's Lord Advocate has this week asked Scottish Police to take account of the report into torture published by the US senate in its ongoing investigation into the use of Scottish airports by US rendition flights. Unfortunately, the police investigation to date appears to have been little more than a charade. There is therefore little prospect that police will put the new evidence to good use. The Scottish Government must take steps to set up a judge-led inquiry into the issue, with power to subpoena witnesses.

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:

"The police investigation so far has been a charade. Police have previously dismissed compelling evidence from Reprieve and Amnesty International that Prestwick and Glasgow airports had been used to facilitate the rendition of a number of named prisoners, by providing re-fuelling facilities on the return flight from these operations. In June 2013, at the Lord Advocate's request, police began a new investigation into the possible use of Inverness, Aberdeen and Wick airports by rendition aircraft. The new investigation was triggered by an academic report which, though an excellent piece of work, did not provide information anywhere near as specific as that already provided for Glasgow and Prestwick airports. I very much doubt that the police have the determination to add anything to the work done by the academics, or to extract anything from the Senate report that would help them bring criminal charges in Scotland.

"The Senate report reveals something of the horror that was inflicted on people kidnapped by the US with the assistance of Scottish facilities. We need a serious inquiry into this. We need UK officials involved in the administration of these flights, and others in the UK who may have relevant information, to be called upon to testify under oath. A lot of people, from low-ranking officials through to senior officials and members of the intelligence, security and law-enforcement agencies, may have something to contribute. The police investigation has become a distraction."

The following incidents involving Glasgow and Prestwick airports have been widely documented and were included in the report presented to Kenny MacAskill by Reprieve in 2007:

  • 24 October 2001 - N379P refuelled at Prestwick airport, returning from the rendition of Jamil Qasim Saeed Muhammad from Pakistan to Jordan on 23 October.
  • 20 December 2001 - N379P refuelled at Prestwick airport, returning from the rendition of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zery from Sweden to Egypt on 18 December (this rendition by US personnel is sometimes called a "transfer", presumably in deference to the sensitivities of the Swedish government that initiated it).
  • 15 January 2002 - N379P refuelled at Prestwick airport, returning from the rendition of Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni from Indonesia to Egypt on 11 January
  • 9 March 2003 - N379P refuelled at Glasgow airport, returning from the rendition of Khalid (Khaled) Sheik Mohammed from Pakistan to a secret prison in Poland on 7 March. Legal charity Reprieve revealed in 2007 that false flight plans had been filed saying that the plane had come from Prague when it had in fact come from Szymany airport, close to the secret prison. Reprieve says that the fabrication "could not have happened without the active collusion of the Polish government and Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing with an office in Crawley, England."
  • 24 July 2003 - N379P refuelled at Prestwick airport, returning from the rendition of Saifulla Paracha from Thailand to Afghanistan on 22 July.

No prisoners are thought to have been on these aircraft when they stopped in Scotland, but refuelling stops here appear to have crucially facilitated the renditions. On this basis, there appear to be reasonable grounds to suspect that offences connected with aiding and abetting false imprisonment, aiding and abetting torture and/or conspiracy to torture were committed in Scotland by the crew and operators of the aircraft and perhaps by persons in the UK who facilitated the stopovers or who were aware of their significance and took no action to prevent them.

Since the police investigation into these incidents has apparently closed, there should be no obstacle to setting up a judge-led inquiry into them. But in any case, the dysfunctional police investigation cannot be allowed to block a real inquiry.



  • SACC wrote to Strathclyde Police on 19 August 2006 with details of the rendition of Jamil Qasim Saeed Muhammad. Read our letter to Strathclyde police.
  • SACC wrote to Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill on 13 June 2007 to press for an investigation. We raised a number of points that remain relevant today and once again provided details of the rendition of Jamil Qasim Saeed Muhammad. Our letter to Kenny MacAskill appears on our website, as does the response from the Scottish Government.
  • In August 2007 Clive Stafford Smith from the legal charity Reprieve personally presented Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill with a detailed report on Scottish involvement in rendition, setting out the steps that needed to be taken to investigate the matter. None of these steps have been taken. Read the report on Scottish involvement in rendition.
  • The SACC response to the police investigation launched in June 2013 is here.