Italy upholds verdict on CIA agents in rendition case

Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar (file image from 2007) Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, was snatched in Milan in 2003

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Italy's highest appeals court has upheld guilty verdicts on 23 Americans, all but one of them CIA agents, accused of kidnapping a terror suspect.

Their case related to the abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan in 2003.

The man, known as Abu Omar, was allegedly flown to Egypt and tortured.

The Americans were tried in absentia, in the first trial involving extraordinary rendition, the CIA's practice of transferring suspects to countries where torture is permitted.

The practice has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.

The group of Americans - 22 of whom were CIA agents and one an Air Force pilot - are believed to be living in the US and are unlikely to serve their sentences.

Italy has never requested their extradition but they will be unable to travel to Europe without risking arrest.

The group include the former station chief of CIA operations in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady.

At the time, he said that his opposition to the proposal to kidnap the imam was overruled.

The court upheld the sentences of the lower court which had sentenced all of them to seven years in prison, apart from Seldon Lady, who was given a nine-year sentence.

The Court of Cassation also ruled that five senior Italian secret service agents - including the former head of the country's military intelligence agency - should be tried for their role in the kidnapping.

Nicolo Pollari resigned over the affair in which Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian imam also known as Abu Omar, was snatched from a Milan street.

Abu Omar says he was tortured for seven months in Egypt.

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