Italian judge convicts 23 in CIA kidnapping case

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Italian judge has convicted 23 people from the US of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Milan in 2003. The landmark case is the first involving the CIA's controversial "extraordinary rendition" program.

Map of Italy, showing Milan.

The judge sentenced the CIA's Milan station chief at the time, Robert Seldon Lady, to eight years in prison on Wednesday, and the 22 others to five years. All of the suspects were tried in absentia, and are not in custody.

The judge also gave three-year prison sentences to two Italians involved in the kidnapping. Three other American defendants and five Italians, including Italy's former military intelligence chief, were acquitted.

Prosecutors charged that the Egyptian cleric, suspected terrorist Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr (also known as Abu Omar), was abducted from a Milan street and sent to Egypt, where he was repeatedly tortured.

The Italian government has denied any role in the renditions program, which was approved by the administration of former US president George W. Bush.

"Extraordinary rendition," as practiced by the CIA, involved secretly transferring terror suspects between countries, placing them in locations where they could be intensively interrogated.

Human-rights groups charge that renditions were the CIA's way of relocating prisoners extrajudicially to places where they faced torture during interrogation. However, Bush said repeatedly that U.S. operatives did not transfer prisoners to countries known to practice torture.