Italy’s Highest Court Upholds CIA Kidnapping Convictions

Friday, September 21, 2012
Robert Seldon Lady

The convictions of 23 Americans who kidnapped an Egyptian terrorism suspect during the George W. Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition program has been upheld by Italy’s highest court.


The Americans, 22 Central Intelligence Agency spies and one Air Force officer (Lt. Col. Joseph Romano), were convicted last year of helping abduct Abu Omar (Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr) from Milan in February 2003. The cleric was transferred to U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany and eventually shipped to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. “You cannot imagine,” he told Human Rights Watch. “I was hung up like a slaughtered sheep and given electric shocks,” “I could hear the screams of others who were tortured too.” Abu Omar was later released.


All of the Americans were tried in absentia and never were in Italian custody. They were convicted in November 2009 Prosecutors have tried unsuccessfully to convince the Italian government to seek extradition. But even if the government were to do so, it is unlikely the U.S. would honor the request.


The Americans cannot travel to Europe, however, without running the risk of being arrested and handed over to Italian authorities.


All of the convicted received jail sentences of seven years, except for Robert Seldon Lady, the former Milan CIA station chief, who had his sentence increased to nine years after appealing. During the original 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,” he told Il Giornale. At that trial, three other Americans were acquitted.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Italy Upholds Americans' Conviction in CIA Rendition Case (by Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press)

Italy’s High Court Upholds Convictions of 23 Americans in Abu Omar Rendition (by Ian Shapira, Washington Post)

Italy/US: Ruling on CIA Case Highlights US Inaction (Human Rights Watch)

Judge Rejects Diplomatic Immunity for CIA Agent Accused in Italian Kidnapping Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

CIA Agents Convicted in Landmark Italian Rendition Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Accused CIA Agent Sues for Diplomatic Immunity (by David Wallechinsky and Jacquelyn Lickness, AllGov)


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