New doubts over Shannon's role in post-9/11 rendition flights
NEW details have emerged of how alleged "rendition flights" run by the US government following the terrorist attacks of September 11 passed through Shannon Airport.
A seemingly incidental court case between two aviation firms in New York has unearthed details of the costs and itineraries of the flights in which the Irish airport was one of a web of transition points around the world for the CIA-operated journeys.
However, last night the Irish Government restated its belief that no terror suspects had been transferred through Shannon and that the flights had been known about for the last few years.
Details of the flights emerged in a court case between charter company Richmor Aviation and aviation broker SportsFlight, both of which have been locked in a four-year battle over the costs.
In one instance, the crew of a plane which landed here in August 2004 spent almost €200 each on accommodation for the missions which have been described as providing "global support to US embassies".
The court documents include details of the contracts, invoices, mobile phone records but do not detail who was on the flight apart from a count of the number of crew and passengers.
It has been alleged that the rendition flights have been used to bring suspects from countries such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to a network of prisons run by the US where suspects are interrogated.
Shannon was allegedly one of a number of airports used as well as Islamabad; Rome; Frankfurt; Dubai; Glasgow; Tenerife, Tripoli and Sharm el Sheik in Egypt.
During the trial in New York, the president of Richmor Aviation said the details of the flights were classified but that they contained "government personnel and their invitees". He said he was aware of allegations they flew "terrorists" and "bad guys".
The bill for the flights reached hundreds of thousands of euro each in some instances.
In a number of cases, the time of the flights corresponds with the arrests and transportation of suspects picked up in the months after September 11.
Last night a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the details of the flights had emerged before.
When initial allegations of renditions were made a number of years ago, the previous government was given assurances that they were not happening on Irish soil.
"The Government has no reason to doubt the assurances from the highest levels of the US authorities," he said.