Proof of CIA kidnapping 'indisputable'

28th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Abu Omar, whose real name is Osama Hassan Nasr, was abducted while walking to his mosque here in February 2003 in what was thought to be among scores of covert kidnappings around the world since the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the so-called extraordinary rendition programme.

Milan -- A top Italian prosecutor last week made his case against 26 US secret agents accused of snatching a terror suspect from a Milan street and sending him home to Egypt where he claims he was tortured.

"No one could seriously argue that they were in Italy for other reasons" than to abduct Milan imam Abu Omar and transfer him to Cairo via two US military bases, said Amando Spataro, citing detailed aviation, cell phone, rental car and hotel records.

"The data of all the flights ... indisputably show one sole possibility," Spataro said as he began closing arguments in the case.

Abu Omar, whose real name is Osama Hassan Nasr, was abducted while walking to his mosque here in February 2003 in what was thought to be among scores of covert kidnappings around the world since the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the so-called extraordinary rendition programme.

The radical Islamist opposition figure, who enjoyed political asylum in Italy, was taken to the US air force base in Aviano, northeastern Italy, then flown to the US base in Ramstein, Germany, and on to Cairo, Spataro said.

Twenty-six Americans -- 25 CIA agents including the former CIA substation chief in Milan, Robert Lady, plus an air force colonel -- are being tried in absentia in the case.

Lady, who left Milan soon after Spataro opened the probe, had a "very interesting" warning e-mail on his home computer, the prosecutor said.

Six of the defendants were at the scene of the kidnapping, while the others assisted in the operation, Spataro charged.

Interpol has issued international arrest warrants for all 26, but successive Italian governments have declined to seek their extradition from the United States, while government lawyers sought to have the case thrown out as a threat to national security.

The issue went before Italy's Constitutional Court, which agreed that part of the investigation had violated state secrecy provisions but said the prosecution could use evidence obtained correctly.

The former head of Italian military intelligence, Nicolo Pollari, had to resign over the affair.

He and six other Italian defendants took the stand in May but refused to answer any questions, saying they were protected by state secrecy laws.

The imam's suspected captors failed to take many standard precautions, notably speaking openly on cell phones, leaving investigators to suspect that the Americans had cleared their intentions with senior Italian intelligence officials.

Although dozens of cell phone contracts allegedly used for the operation were under false names, Spataro's probe was able to link them to the operatives because they used their real names at the hotels where they lodged, he said.

Abu Omar, who was held for four years in a high-security prison outside Cairo, spoke after his release of torture and humiliation during his incarceration.

Spataro, who made his name through his work against the left-wing militant group the Red Brigades that was active in the 1970s, had been building a potential terrorism case against Abu Omar for months before the kidnapping and had secured convictions of a number of his acquaintances.

On Wednesday he questioned the timing of the CIA operation while he was closing in on the "flow" of terror suspects through Italy, saying it "hurt the fight against terrorism."

Abu Omar, through his lawyer, has denied allegations that he fought in Afghanistan and was involved in recruiting fighters to go to Iraq.

Another hearing is scheduled next Wednesday, and a verdict is expected by the end of the year.

APF/Expatica

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