Italy convicts abducted Egypt cleric Abu Omar

Abu Omar, also known as Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, in Egypt (April 2007) Abu Omar has been in Egypt since resurfacing after his 2003 abduction

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An Egyptian cleric abducted in Italy as part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme has been convicted of terrorism charges by a Milan court.

Abu Omar, also known as Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, was also sentenced in absentia to six years in prison.

In 2003, he was seized while walking down a street in Milan and secretly flown to Egypt for interrogation.

He alleges he was tortured in Egypt before being released. Italy convicted 23 Americans over his abduction.

The 22 CIA agents and one US Air Force officer were sentenced in absentia to between seven and nine years in jail, although the air force colonel, Joseph Romano, has since been pardoned by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Two former leaders of the Italian military intelligence service, Sismi, are currently appealing against prison sentences of 10 and nine years for their roles.

'Political faith'

At the time of his rendition, Abu Omar had been under investigation for a year as part of a broader inquiry into Islamist militancy based in Milan, according to the indictment at his trial.

Prosecutors said he had collaborated with 13 others between 2000 and 2003 "with the aim of carrying out acts of terrorist violence in Italy and abroad".

Abu Omar's lawyer, Carmelo Scambia, said he denied the charge of "criminal association for the purposes of international terrorism" and did not believe in violence.

"It's a political trial, if you will, an ideological trial against someone who professes a political faith," Mr Scambia told the Associated Press.

His client was currently living in the city of Alexandria and was being constantly monitored by the Egyptian authorities, he added.

Prosecutors said Egyptian officials had not responded to requests to question Abu Omar or bring him to Italy for trial.

Abu Omar's rendition was only uncovered when Italian prosecutors investigating him intercepted a telephone call that he made from Egypt to his wife in Italy after 14 months in captivity. During their conversation, he recounted his abduction and mistreatment by Egyptian security services.

He was subsequently rearrested in Egypt and held under an emergency detention law until 2007, when a court ordered his release.

The CIA's practice of extraordinary rendition - the transfer of suspects to countries where torture is permitted - has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.

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