Turkey allowed use of Incirlik airbase as refuelling stop, US embassy cable reveals, after Turkish denials of involvement
Turkey allowed the US to use its airbase at Incirlik in southern Turkey as part of the “extraordinary rendition” programme to take suspected terrorists to Guantánamo Bay, according to a US diplomatic cable.
Turkey’s involvement in the controversial programme was revealed in a cable dated 8 June 2006, written by the then US ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson. The cable described Turkey as a crucial ally in the “global war on terror” and an important logistical base for the US-led war in Iraq.
“The Turkish military had allowed us to use Incirlik as a refuelling stop for Operation Fundamental Justice detainee movement operations since 2002, but revoked this permission in February of this year. We understand OSD [office of the secretary of defence] and JCS [joint chiefs of staff] have been discussing whether to approach Turkey to seek to reverse this decision,” the cable said.
“We recommend that you do not raise this issue with TGS [Turkish general staff] pending clarification from Washington on what approach state/OSD/JCS/NSC [national security council] wish to take.”
The cable contradicts statements made at the time by Turkish officials. On 14 June 2006, a spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry told reporters: “The Turkish government and state never played a part [in the secret transfers] … and never will.”
Turkey had just been named in a Council of Europe report among 14 European countries that colluded in or tolerated the covert transporting of prisoners.
Amnesty International strongly criticised the EU in November for failing to call to account member states, including Britain, for their complicity in the CIA’s rendition and secret detention programme. Amnesty’s report, Open Secret (pdf), outlined allegations of CIA renditions involving eight European countries – Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK.
Two secret CIA prisons are now known to have existed in Lithuania, and there are separate allegations relating to Poland and Romania. There are claims that the UK territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean was used as a secret prison and evidence it was used by the CIA as a transit stop in taking detainees to secret prisons.