Lithuania says will not appeal European court ruling over CIA jail

The case could clear the way for a comeback by Arnaldo Otegi, a former militant in Basque separatist group ETA who turned to politics in the 1990s

Lithuania on Wednesday said it would not appeal a European court ruling that the Baltic state had been complicit in a clandestine CIA programme by holding terror suspects at a secret detention site on its territory.

"We decided it would make no sense to appeal to the Great Chamber because there are no legal criteria for that," government official Karolina Bubnyte Sirmene told AFP.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in May that Lithuania hosted a secret prison from February 2005 to March 2006, when CIA operatives held Abu Zubaydah, considered a top Palestinian operative for Al-Qaeda.

The EU and NATO state was ordered to pay 100,000 euros ($116,000) in damages to Zubaydah for enabling US authorities to subject him to "inhuman treatment".

Lithuanian officials have denied the existence of a secret CIA jail on their soil and told the court that the suspected building on the outskirts of Vilnius was instead "an intelligence support centre".

Bubnyte Sirmene said the Lithuanian government maintains that position but came to the conclusion that it had no legal chance to change the ruling.

"Lithuania fully agrees to fulfil its international obligations under the European human rights convention but we can have our own opinion about some facts," she said.

She added that Lithuania will face hurdles to implement to ruling and pay the damages.

"It will require coordinated effort by many institutions. We will have to analyse how to do that," Bubnyte Sirmene said.

"For example, if the person is on the UN sanction list, we cannot transfer money to him directly or even deposit it under his name."

She said they would start searching for solutions once the ruling comes into effect later this month.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the CIA took suspected Al-Qaeda detainees to several "black sites" around the world to escape US rules on interrogations -- a programme that has since been judged illegal.

The court had ruled that fellow EU and NATO member states Poland and Romania also allowed the unlawful imprisonment of terror suspects more than a decade ago.