THE CIA used a clandestine detention centre in Bucharest to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects, including the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, according to an investigation by German media.
The prison, used between 2003 and 2006, was in the cellar of a government building in a northwestern residential neighbourhood of the Romanian capital, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and ARD public television said.
The building housed the Office of the National Register for Secret State Information, or ORNISS, which stored confidential information and ensured only authorised people gained access to it, the reports said.
Contacted by AFP overnight, ORNISS denied once more having hosted a CIA clandestine detention centre in Bucharest.
“We strongly reject all media speculations alleging this location hosted a CIA prison”, it said.
“Starting with the end of 2002, the building situated at 4 Mures street served exclusively as (our) headquarters.”
According to the investigation, detainees included Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, a top al-Qaeda operative and mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged plotter of the USS Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000, was also held at the Romanian centre, ARD said.
Journalists from the two media organisations, as well as the Associated Press news agency, said the centre was identified in photos by former CIA operatives active in Bucharest.
The centre was codenamed “Bright Light”, the Sueddeutsche newspaper said.
Although the existence of a so-called “black site” in Romania, set up by the Central Intelligence Agency as part of its clandestine counter-terrorism operations, has long been suspected, its location was unknown.
Just days before the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Council of Europe’s human rights chief urged Poland, Romania and Lithuania to lift the lid on CIA “black sites” where detainees were allegedly tortured on their soil.
Romania has vehemently denied hosting such a site.
In ARD’s Panorama program, due to be broadcast today, an ORNISS official denied the prison had existed on its premises, according to a statement from the television station.
ORNISS was reported to have been set up for Romania’s 2004 NATO entry. ARD said the Brussels-based alliance declined comment.