WARSAW, POLAND — Polish prosecutors may seek access to terror suspects detained by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay for direct questioning as part of an investigation into whether a secret CIA prison operated here in 2002-2003, an official said Thursday.
The prosecutors would need U.S. permission to question prisoners held at Guantanamo and are weighing whether to make a request. Washington has provided little help to Poland’s investigation, which was launched in 2008, and has already denied an appeal from Warsaw for assistance in gathering evidence.
Poland is running out of options and at some point may have to end its investigation into whether the country hosted a CIA black site where terror suspects were allegedly tortured.
“We will use every emerging opportunity that would allow us to question … all people who have information on the case,” investigating prosecutors’ spokesman Piotr Kosmaty told The Associated Press. “It would be good if the prosecutor went there.”
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, declined to comment.
U.S. lawyers for a Yemeni suspect, Walid bin Attash, have visited Poland and suggested that investigators try to obtain testimony from him by going in person to Guantanamo Bay where Attash and two other suspects included in Poland’s probe are held, Kosmaty said. The suspects claim to have been held at a CIA site in Poland.
Attash was given victim status in the Polish probe, as were Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who faces terror charges in the U.S. for allegedly orchestrating the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in 2000 in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17 sailors and wounded 37, and Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian who has not been charged with any crime. Victim status only means that their attorneys have access to documents related to the investigation.
Former CIA officials have told The Associated Press that a prison in Poland operated from December 2002 until the fall of 2003. Human rights groups believe about eight terror suspects were held in Poland, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In December, Europe’s human rights court held a hearing of lawyers for Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri, who accused Poland of human rights abuses. The lawyers alleged the suspects were tortured in a remote Polish prison and condemned Poland for dragging feet in its own investigation. The ruling by the human rights court is expected at a later date.
Polish government officials of the time deny such a center existed, but prosecutors said recently they have presented charges to one former official. Polish media reported in 2012 that former intelligence agency chief, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, heard charges, meaning he has been formally notified that he is a suspect.