CIA Agents Convicted in Landmark Italian Rendition Case

Thursday, November 05, 2009
Robert Seldon Lady

Representing a landmark indictment of the Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition program, a court in Italy on Wednesday convicted 23 Americans accused of kidnapping a Muslim cleric from Milan in 2003. In the practice of extraordinary rendition, suspects for whom there is no warrant are kidnapped in one country and sent to another country to be interrogated. In this case, the first in which CIA operatives have faced a criminal trial, twenty-six Americans were tried, all in absentia, but three were acquitted, including the former Rome station chief for the CIA, because they were covered by diplomatic immunity.

None of the convicted is expected to serve time in prison. The Americans, 22 CIA agents and one U.S. Air Force officer, grabbed Abu Omar (real name Osama Hassan Nasr) more than six years ago from the streets of Milan and shipped him to Egypt, where Omar claims he was tortured as part of the U.S. government’s secret rendition program. The Americans were not present at the trial because the Italian government refused to comply with the prosecution’s request for an extradition order. Even if Rome had asked for the Americans to be extradited, the Obama administration said it would not turn over any of the accused, and that is not expected to change now that the sentences have been handed down.
Each defendant received a five-year prison sentence, except for Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA’s former chief in Milan, who was sentenced to eight years for overseeing the kidnapping plot. During the trial, Lady told an Italian newspaper he was not guilty—but also indicated he may have been involved in the abduction. “I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors,” Lady told Il Giornale.
The judge also ordered the Americans to pay 1 million euros in damages to Nasr and 500,000 euros to his wife.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Italy Convicts 23 Americans for C.I.A. Renditions (by Rachel Donadio, New York Times)
Accused CIA Agent Sues for Diplomatic Immunity (by David Wallechinsky and Jacquelyn Lickness, AllGov)


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