Former Italian spy chief opposes CIA trial

30th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

30 January 2007, Milan (dpa) - The former head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, asked judges in Milan not to indict him over the alleged kidnapping by CIA and Italian agents of an Egyptian terror suspect, saying he would not be able to defend himself in court without disclosing sensitive state secrets. Nicolo Pollari said the case should instead be referred to Italy's Constitutional Court, which would be called to decide whether he can be tried even if part of his defence evidence is conside

30 January 2007

Milan (dpa) - The former head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, asked judges in Milan not to indict him over the alleged kidnapping by CIA and Italian agents of an Egyptian terror suspect, saying he would not be able to defend himself in court without disclosing sensitive state secrets.

Nicolo Pollari said the case should instead be referred to Italy's Constitutional Court, which would be called to decide whether he can be tried even if part of his defence evidence is considered classified information.

Prosecutors want preliminary hearings Judge Caterina Interlandi to indict Pollari and 34 others, including 26 United States agents, over their involvement in a so-called "extraordinary rendition" operation.

Should the judge decide to call a trial, it would be the first time that the controversial initiative, part of US President George W Bush's global "war on terrorism", was made accountable to the law.

The case dates back to February 2003, when an Egyptian imam disappeared from the streets of Milan and was secretly flown to Egypt via Germany.

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who is known in Italy as Abu Omar, says he was tortured and beaten during questioning in an Egyptian prison. Abu Omar is still believed to be held in a cell in Cairo, where he is yet to be charged.

Prosecutor Armando Spataro argues that US agents abducted the Muslim cleric with the help of their Italian colleagues. Pollari and the Italian government of the time, led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, have publicly denied any knowledge of the operation.

Speaking in court Monday, Pollari described himself as "a scapegoat" and said both Berlusconi and his successor, Romano Prodi, should be asked to testify in court to his innocence.

"Nicolo Pollari opposed with unambiguous conduct and absolute firmness all illegal activities even when they were aimed against fighting terror. This conduct is proven in documents which are classified information," said a document presented by Pollari's lawyers.

Pollari was replaced as head of SISMI by the Prodi government in November of last year.

Meanwhile, it was reported that magistrates had seized a villa in northern Italy belonging to a former CIA station chief, Robert Seldon Lady. Lady is one of the 26 CIA agents facing a possible indictment. Magistrates said that his villa would be held until the end of the trial and would be sold to pay for legal costs and damages in case of conviction.

None of the CIA agents attended Monday's hearing as they are believed to have left Italy. Previous prosecutors' requests for their extradition have failed and legal experts say they are unlikely to be turned over to Italy for trial.

Last week, the European Union's parliament approved a report slamming EU members like Italy for tolerating or assisting the United States' practice of secret detentions of terrorist suspects.

The text criticised EU states over their failure to fulfill "the European obligations, such as the respect of human rights."

More than 1,245 CIA-operated flights flew over European airspace or stopped over at airports in Europe, Euro MPs concluded, urging member states to investigate these so-called rendition flights.

Monday's hearing was adjourned to February 6.

DPA

Subject: German news

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