Lithuania opens doors of alleged former CIA secret prison

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By Euronews  with EBU
This Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 picture shows a building in the Antaviliai, Lithuania, 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside Vilnius which allegedly housed a CIA prison.
This Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 picture shows a building in the Antaviliai, Lithuania, 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside Vilnius which allegedly housed a CIA prison.   -   Copyright  Mindaugas Kulbis / AP - 2009   -  

Lithuania has opened the doors of a former CIA site near Vilnius, more than 16 years after the Washington Post broke the story of the United States' alleged secret prison.

The Lithuanian Justice Ministry has confirmed it has paid a court-ordered compensation to the "forever prisoner" Abu Zubaydah, one of the alleged masterminds of the September 11 terrorist attacks suspected to have been tortured in the former riding club.

The ministry said it transferred €100,000 to a Saudi account of Abu Zubaydah's brother and €30,000 to his Dutch lawyer.

The Saudi Arabia-born Palestinian, held in the Guantanamo Bay prison, won the case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2018.

It ruled that he had been kept in arbitrary detention and tortured at a secret CIA prison in Lithuania. It also ordered Lithuanian authorities to investigate the timeline of his presence in Vilnius.

Lithuania has never admitted that the facility in Antaviliai was the "Violet" site referred to in the 2014 US Senate report on the secret CIA network.

It claims that the CIA used it as an "intelligence support centre" some 20 kilometres from Belarus and that the Strasbourg court based its ruling on circumstantial evidence.

The ECHR is considering a second case tied to the site brought by Saudi national Mustafa al-Hawsawi.

Pressured by the newly-elected president Dalia Grybauskaite, the Lithuanian parliament held an inquiry in 2009 and concluded that the site was one of the two affiliated with the CIA.

The report said that it had suitable premises for a prison and that Lithuania could not control what was happening inside.

However, it did not establish the presence of any prisoners despite a number of CIA-connected flights that were waived border checks.

The 968-square-metre site has all doors armoured and some equipment made in the US.

This week, it has been vacated by the State Security Department, which took over in 2007 and established a training centre through which all of its employees went through.

The complex is now being prepared for an auction sale.

A local family built the riding club and cafe in a leafy residential suburb in 1992 and reconstructed it in 2001.

In its 2009 exclusive, ABC News reported that in March 2004, just before Lithuania's accession to NATO, the site was bought by now-defunct CIA-front company "Elite LLC.", registered in Delaware and Panama.

The US broadcaster claimed that the prison was opened in September 2004, after similar sites in Poland and Romania.

Up to eight prisoners were held in flown-in prefabricated pods for a year before the site was shut in 2005.