A jet chartered by the United States military, which is known to have abducted and transported al-Qaeda suspects, has landed at Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland several times, it has emerged.
The jet was spotted at Shannon in 2001 carrying al-Qaeda suspects for interrogation in Egypt- The plane has also landed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where Camp X-Ray, run by the US military on one of its bases, houses several hundred al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects.
The reports have embarrassed the Dublin government, which has claimed that the use of Irish air facilities by the U.S. does not violate Irish neutrality, and that any suspects landing on Irish soil would fall under Irish law.
The chartered plane is normally based at Dulles airport in Washington DC, but is used worldwide in operations described by the CIA in an article in the Washington Post newspaper as “extraordinary renditions”.
The plane’s operations are designed to transfer suspects to countries where they can be interrogated without the protection of Western law.
According to security analysts, the number of “renditions” have increased dramatically since the September 11 attacks.
Two Egyptian suspects, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, were reportedly “abducted” from Sweden in the jet in December 2001 by US government officials.
On boarding the flight, it was reported in a documentary by Swedish journalist Fredrik Laurin, that they were chained to a harness, blindfolded and hooded.
Asked earlier this year about the possibility that planes carrying al-Qaeda suspects may be passing through Shannon, justice minister Michael McDowell said: ``[Any] person who is on the soil of Ireland is entitled to the protection of our constitution.
“No person can be brought through the soil of Ireland in the custody of any other state except in accordance with international law.’’
McDowell said that he would “respond immediately” to any claims that suspects had been transmitted through Irish territory en route to Guantanamo in unlawful custody.
“It would cause me grave concern if I thought people were being smuggled through Irish territory in circumstances that amounted to unlawful detention in Irish law or in international law for that matter,” he said.
McDowell has yet to respond to the reports.
* The Dublin government has issued an Irish passport to Kenneth Bigley, the English-born contractor of Irish parentage who is being held hostage in Iraq.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern has confirmed that the family of Kenneth Bigley whose mother is from Dublin asked the Dublin government for a passport to be issued in order to convince his kidnappers of his Irish citizenship.