Rendition flights claim to be investigated by Police Scotland

image captionUniversity researchers tracked more that 11,000 flights

New claims CIA planes transferred people to "secret prison and torture destinations" via Scottish airports are set to be investigated by police.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland told MSPs he was confident the police would conduct a "thorough inquiry".

The move comes in light of an academic study claiming to have discovered "conclusive" evidence of so-called rendition flights landing in Scotland.

The research was carried out by the universities of Kent and Kingston.

Their database tracked more than 11,000 flights by more than 120 aircraft linked by past investigations to renditions.

The researchers, Dr Ruth Blakeley at the University of Kent and Dr Sam Raphael at Kingston University in London, found that Wick, Aberdeen and Inverness airports could have been used in the rendition of terrorist suspects.

However, it could not be established whether the planes had prisoners on board.

Mr Mulholland said: "The use of torture cannot be condoned. It is against international law and contrary to the common law of Scotland.

"A police inquiry was conducted into allegations of extraordinary rendition at Scottish airports in 2007 and 2008. Following the inquiry the police concluded that there was insufficient credible and reliable information to enable them to commence a criminal investigation.

"I'm aware of the information provided by the rendition project by researchers at Kent and Kingston universities. I consider that this information, and any other information additional to that considered by the police in 2007, should be the subject of police consideration.

"I will thereafter ask Police Scotland to give consideration to this information."

But he advised that police would require a high standard of proof for criminal proceedings to be brought.

Mr Mulholland explained: "It should be recognised that in order for criminal proceedings to be raised it must be proved that a crime known to the law of Scotland has been committed.

"Speculation, conjecture, innuendo and belief are insufficient. What you need is hard evidence, sufficient evidence to the requisite high standard of proof is required.

"But I am confident that the police will do their duty in this matter and conduct a thorough inquiry in accordance with the principles of Police Scotland."

'Secret prison'

The use of Prestwick, Glasgow and Edinburgh as a stop-off on journeys often linking the US and Middle East had previously been identified.

But the latest research suggested that five flights landed at Wick, a further five at Inverness and three at Aberdeen.

The north and north east links were not previously considered "suspicious" by the team, but were highlighted for further investigation after details of flight paths emerged.

One aircraft which landed at Wick in 2004 had been "logged flying to secret prison and torture destinations", the researchers said.

It cannot be established if the planes had prisoners on board, only that aircraft were linked to rendition flights in the past.

The research looks at the system put in place following the September 2001 terrorist attack in the US.

The academics said rendition flights involved the transfer of suspects to locations abroad where they may have been tortured.

Police Scotland said it had been liaising with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

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