The Italian Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of 23 CIA agents and also ordered a re-trial for five Italian ex-spies who were also accused of taking part in the abduction and rendition to Egypt from Milan of Imam Abu Omar..
On February 17 2003 the CIA abducted Abu Omar in Milan, Italy. He was transported to the Aviano Air Base and ultimately to Cairo, Egypt where he claimed he was interrogated, tortured and abused. An Egyptian court released Omar in February of 2007 after ruling that his detention was unfounded.
The 23 agents were convicted and sentenced originally in November of 2009. The sentence was from five to eight years. However in December 2010 on appeal the sentences were increased to seven to nine years. They were also ordered to pay damages to the Imam. The agents were not present at the original trial because the U.S. refused to extradite them.
The Italian Justice Ministry is again obliged to formally request the agents be extradited to Italy to serve their sentences. The U.S. said beforehand that they would not extradite those found guilty to Italy. The agents are thought to be living in the U.S. but they do risk arrest if they travel to Europe. One of the agents, Bob Seldon Lady, had his home seized in Italy. He was head of the CIA in Milan.
Some members of SISMI, the Italian Intelligence Agency, cooperated in the U.S. rendition. The Italian government was furious at the action since Italy had an ongoing surveillance operation that was seeking evidence of Omar's involvement with radical Islamist organizations. All of a sudden he disappears!
The court ordered that two former chiefs of SISMI be re-tried. An appeals court had acquitted the two on the grounds that the evidence against them could not be brought forward as it would violate laws against revealing state secrets. Three other agents also face re-trial. The court also upheld sentences of two years and eight months in prison for two former military intelligence officials.
The "extraordinary rendition" programme was started in 2003 by president George Bush. The CIA had no comment on the court ruling. The U.S. often transferred terrorism suspects to countries that practiced torture in order for them to be interrogated. While Obama has tried to distance himself from "extraordinary rendition" he has not banned the practice only promised that there will be no torture.
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