Egypt releases cleric at centre of CIA case

12th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 February 2007, Cairo/Milan (dpa) - The release from prison by Egyptian authorities of a Muslim cleric may shed new light on his alleged abduction by CIA agents in Milan, officials in Italy said Monday. Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, 44, was reunited with his family in Alexandria late on Sunday after being detained without charge for four years in a prison cell near Cairo. Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, disappeared from the streets of Italy's financial capital in February 2003 and was eventually "rendered" in

12 February 2007

Cairo/Milan (dpa) - The release from prison by Egyptian authorities of a Muslim cleric may shed new light on his alleged abduction by CIA agents in Milan, officials in Italy said Monday.

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, 44, was reunited with his family in Alexandria late on Sunday after being detained without charge for four years in a prison cell near Cairo.

Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, disappeared from the streets of Italy's financial capital in February 2003 and was eventually "rendered" into the hands of Egypt's State Security Intelligence.

The cleric was at the time being investigated by Italian prosecutors, who suspect he ran a terrorism cell that recruited combatants for the war in Iraq.

His abduction was at the centre of a preliminary hearing held in Milan on Monday that could eventually lead to the indictment of 35 people, including 26 CIA agents and several top Italian spies.

Monday's hearing was adjourned to Tuesday. Should judge Caterina Interlandi decide to call a trial, it would be the first time that US so-called "extraordinary rendition" operations were made accountable to European law.

Milan prosecutor Armando Spataro has called for the author's indictment, arguing that Abu Omar was illegally taken by US agents to a joint US-Italian base and eventually flown to Egypt via Germany.

Abu Omar claims to have been subjected to torture during his detention.

Speaking ahead of Monday's hearing, defence lawyers representing six of the CIA agents said they would ask Abu Omar to be questioned by judges.

Lawyer Guido Neroni also asked judge Caterina Interlandi to acquit his clients for lack of evidence.

Abu Omar would face imprisonment on terrorism charges if he were to return to Italy, a predicament that has prompted some Italian centre-left lawmakers to arrange for his protection.

"Abu Omar should be placed in the condition of being able to collaborate with Milan prosecutors," said Giusto Catania, an Italian European Union parliamentarian.

"He is a key personality that could help us shed light on the dynamics of the abuses committed by the US intelligence (agency) in Europe," Catania said.

A recent probe by the European parliament has concluded that more than 1,000 CIA flights had transited the EU and that the CIA had been responsible for kidnapping several people and illegally detaining them on EU soil.

In an interview Monday, Abu Omar said he would be seeking damages from the previous Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi, which has in turn denied any knowledge of the US-led operation.

"I have been reduced to a wreckage of a human being. I can't talk and I don't want to leave the country. I don't want to be incarcerated again," he told the Ansa news agency.

None of the CIA agents are currently in Italy and Italy's justice minister, Clemente Mastella, has yet to decide whether to seek their extradition. Previous such requests were blocked by his predecessor, Roberto Castelli, a member of the pro-US Berlusconi government.

DPA

Subject: German news

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