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US Consul wouldn\'t object to Police Investigation into Rendition Flights

Cecile Shea, US Consul in Scotland, has said that her statement to the Scotsman newspaper last month that British officials would not be allowed to ch eck US aircraft for involvement in \"extraordinary rendition\" had been misunderstood. She said that she had been responding to a question from the Scotsman about blanket inspections of all American aircraft, but she would of course not object to police carrying out investigations on specific aircraft where there were reasonable grounds to suspect involvement in crime. She made it clear that she recognised that any decision to carry out such investigations was a matter for the British authorities. Her comments came during discussions held at the US Consulate in Edinburgh with an eight-strong delegation representing campaigners opposed to extraordinary rendition. The delegation was organised by Scotland Against Criminalising Communities and Edinburgh Stop The War Coalition. Delegates included Frances Curran MSP (SSP) and Mark Ballard MSP (Green). Fiona Hyslop MSP (SNP) gave her support to a letter presented by the delegation, but was unable to join the meeting. The letter was supported by about 140 other concerned individuals, including human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar. A copy of the letter has been sent to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The Consul accepted that some mistakes may have been made in the past, but denied that prisoners transferred abroad under \"extraordinary rendition\" were now subject to torture, or that this was the US intention. She emphasised that US officials had made unequivocal statements to this effect. But campaigners insisted that sending prisoners for interrogation in countries known to practise torture puts them at risk of torture whatever assurances are given, and that this is an offence under British and international law. Ms Shea appeared to acknowledge that this is indeed an issue. She insisted that the US respected international law and used extraordinary rendition only where normal legal processes were inoperable, for example because suspects were living in countries that had no extradition arrangement with the US. Delegates argued that legal processes cannot be treated as optional. They said that if suspects cannot be apprehended through due process, they should not be apprehended at all. They also drew the Consul\'s attention to the case of Jamma El-Banna, a British resident currently held at Guantanamo Bay. He was arrested at Gatwick airport, questioned by British police under anti-Terrorist legislation, then allowed to continue his journey to the Gambia where he was arrested by the local authorities before being handed over to the US and eventually taken to Guantanamo Bay. Campaigners argued that this looked very like a deliberate use of extra-legal methods even though the suspect had originally been in British jurisdiction and a method involving due legal process was apparently available. Cecile Shea was unable to set out the processes involved in \"extraordinary rendition.\" She undertook to pass the views expressed by the delegation to the US Department of State. A meeting like this should have been held by the Scottish Executive. Instead, the job was done by a group of ordinary citizens backed by a handful of MSPs who take their duty to represent the people of Scotland seriously. Scotland can be proud of itself; the Executive cannot.