Independent Media Centre Ireland

Guantanámo Bay Express uses Shannon Airport

category clare | anti-war / imperialism | feature author Sunday September 26, 2004 22:46author by Tim Hourigan - email tim_hourigan at hotmail dot comauthor address Limerickauthor phone 087-9777703

Irish Govt looks the other way on kidnapping and torture.

US prison plane
"Even before we set up the peace camp at Shannon we suspected that the US Government would use Shannon airport to transport its captives to Guantanamo Bay.

After a lot of digging, and some luck, we now have a lot more than suspicion, and YOU have to help us to hold the Irish govt to account for this. A watered down version of this appeared on page six of the Sunday Business Post today... I was expecting a bit more bite.. so here's a bit more of what's being hidden."

In the phony war on terror, thousands of people have been taken prisoner and tortured with no evidence, charges or trial. The arrests make good PR for Bush, the admissions of error are 'less newsworthy'....

There is no limit to what the Irish Government will let Bush and Co, do when it comes to war and torture:


When the government said nothing was going on at Shannon. We didn't believe them. When Willie O'Dea said there was "nothing secretive or furtive going on" I knew that he was lying through his moustache.

The government played ignorant, at the same time, trying to suppress the evidence, no Garda inspections of planes, and constant harassment of planespotters.

Regardless, the planespotters persisted. There were some small stories in the press, but still most people believed the Government line.

When the Peace Camp was set up in Jan 2003, only a small percentage believed the US Military was using Shannon to kill thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Four weeks later, nobody doubted it.

During that time we tried to log as many suspicious aircraft in and out of Shannon as we could. And we published one of the larger logs here on

Most of the flights were confirmed troop carriers or military cargo flights. Other were aircraft that we suspected, but need to dig further.

Of course, at the beginning of February 2003, events overtook us and we had other things on our plates: like High Court Injunctions; 6 people charged with criminal damage; and the imminent mass murder of innocent Iraqis. So the digging paused.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, an investigative journalist named Frederik Laurin (working with Sweden's TV4) was looking into the secretive expulsion and torture of two asylum seekers and he had a good lead. It seems, that unlike Ireland, Swedish police are willing to speak out when they see the State breaking its own laws!

Paul Forell, police inspector at Bromma Airport went on the record, and told what he saw, including the registration number of the aircraft. Also unlike Ireland, the journalist decided to put some effort into the story.

He found out that the two asylum seekers had been living quiet lives in Sweden with their families, were snatched by Swedish and US agents and taken to Egypt where they were tortured using electrodes attached to their testicles, nipples, armpits and earlobes.

Then Mr. Lauring tried to track the plane. It had no markings other than the registration N379P. Google threw up one decent hit: to with an article entitle "Shannon -the Truth" published towards the end of the peace camp.

Fredrik contacted me and asked me to dig into the story and I found this aircraft harder to track than most. It is operated by Premier Executive Transport Services, and even though it has is registered as a civilian aircraft, it has clearance to land at US military airfields all over the world.

It turned out that the same plane was spotted in Indonesia, and Karachi when people were snatched from those countries too, and it is suspected that this plane was used in dozens of what the CIA calls 'extraordinary renditions'

A phone call to P.E.T.S. Inc confirmed our suspicions:

I only found out about this when I got an email from Sweden thanking me for my help. This was broadcast in Sweden in May. I contacted Fredrick, got a rough edit of the tape and a translation of the script into english...

It was very interesting. the US spooks told the Swedish spooks lies about the two captives - such as that one was wanted in Egypt for assassination Anwar Sadat (even though the 'suspect' was 13 yrs old at that time).

The US agents wore masks and only gave their first names. One of the prisoners was placed lying on the floor with hands and feet cuffed together behind his back. The other was strapped fast in the cabin, with his hands over his head.

One of the men was released from prison without charge in October last year, after 34 months of captivity, beatings and torture. He has not been allowed to leave Egypt to go to his new home in Sweden.

He is one of thousands who have been wrongly imprisoned, without charge or trial, in torture dens in client states like Egypt or places like Guantanamo. Some of them are sheepherders and taxi drivers, worng place, wrong colour, wrong name. Most of the real terrorists were already in police custody, or hiding in the hills of Afghanistan... not living in quiet Swedish suburbs, but the P.R. machine makes G.W. Bush look tough on terror.

Bertie said that the discussion on Shannon was 'over' and best left to historians. Of course it is... ignore the dead, ignore the crimes. go back to sleep.

This plane has probably taken hundreds of innocent people to be beaten and tortured. It has been seen several times at Shannon.

What would our government do if they 'knew' what was happening?

Well, in the Seanad 3 months ago, Senator Henry asked the Minister for 'Just-us' Michael McDowell if he could "assure us that untried and unsentenced people are not being brought through Shannon from goodness knows where to Guantanamo Bay". McDowell assured the Seanad that "Any person who is on the soil of Ireland is entitled to the protection of the Constitution. No person can be brought through the soil of Ireland in the custody of any other state except in accordance with International Law. If the Senator has reason to believe any person has been transited through Irish terroritory, in unlawful custody, particularly to Guantanamo, I would be interested to hear it because I would respond to it immediately."

We have our Constitution and the right of freedom of the individual is not confined to citizens; it applies to all persons. Therefore, it would cause me grave concern if I thought people were being smuggled through Irish territory in circumstances that amounted to unlawful detention in Irish law or in international law for that matter."

Seanad Records p286 &287 June 23 2004)

Fine words indeed, but McDowell's pretence of concern and desire for knowledge contrast starkly with the standing orders for the Gardai in Shannon.

During the trial of Eoin Dubsky in 2002, Inspector Tom Kennedy of Shannon Garda Station said that the Garda Siochana do not inspect US aircraft at Shannon because the government has 'an understanding' that the US is complying with all requirements.

The Inspector, along with the airport police tried to claim that they do not have authority to board the vessels, which is rubbish.

Under the Air Transport and Navigation Act, even if they suspect nothing, any Garda, or warranted Airport Police Officer can board any aircraft just to ensure that the contents match the paperwork.

This aircraft N379P is a regular at Shannon. FBO the company that handles it (and most of the military traffice at Shannon) refers to it to it as "Novermber Papa" ... the Guantanamo Bay Express. (FBO radio freq 13.675. Mhz)

The manager of FBO testified at Eoin's trial, and denied that FBO did anything dodgy. Since Mary Kelly's actions at Shannon, Shannon airport was full of cops, with eyes, ears, notebooks and pens... yet they have an 'understanding' that there is nothing to record.

In otherwords, the Garda have been told "See NOTHING, find NOTHING, say NOTHING". This 'plausible deniability' policy is a scandal. The Government denies everything, and everybody who has tried to investigate these things has been harrassed by An Garda Siochana, some have been assaulted, some have been stitched up and sent to a court with a Judge who publicly expresses distate for anti-war activists.

When things were exposed the government tried to sit it out and waffle about the morality of getting Hussein... not killing thousands of Iraqis... the value of US business, not the danger of explosive cargo at Shannon.

The mainstream media rarely crosses the line and allows the excuses to go unchallenged.

What's the excuse going to be for letting innocent people be taken off to be electrocuted? What's it worth to the economy? Why don't we create jobs and build our own Abu Ghraib in the Shannon Industrial Estate. McDowell and Harney could open it and then the hypocrisy would be finally complete.

What now?

A small number of people worked hard and with persistent obstacles to expose what is still happening at Shannon and the cover up in the Dail.

We publish information here hoping the public, and activists will act on it. After you've read this, don't just shake your head in dismay. If this is as much as you do, then this will be wasted. Go out and do something to help change this. If you're in Dublin get together with groups like Fairview Anti-war or your own group and show some public outrage at this. Demand accountability, not weasel answers. Call them liars when they waffle. Expose them, don't fear them.

If you're nearer to Shannon? Well the small number of people here could do with someone else doing some of the work.

And if you have a head for digging and investigating then you're especially welcome, because that takes time and people too.

Whatever you do, don't just look the other way.

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