Europe

Former CIA chief's rendition sentence reduced in Italy

Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, is seen during an Amnesty International press conference in Cairo, 11 April 2007. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was taken by CIA operatives from a Milan street to Egypt

Italy has reduced the sentence of a former CIA station chief convicted in his absence of extraordinary rendition.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella commuted Robert Seldon Lady's sentence from nine years to seven. He also cancelled a three-year sentence handed to another American, Betnie Medero.

The two, neither of whom is in Italy, were convicted over the kidnap from Milan of a Muslim cleric, Abu Omar.

They were among 26 people convicted in their absence of the 2003 crime.

Omar, whose real name is Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, was taken from a Milan street by members of the CIA and Italian security forces.

He was allegedly then transferred between US military bases in Italy and Germany before being flown to Egypt and tortured.

He was held there for four years without a trial.

Italian prosecutors requested that those indicted over the rendition be extradited from the US to Italy to face charges, but the Italian justice ministry refused to issue the request to the US.

Seldon Lady was detained in Panama in July 2013 but was later released and travelled immediately to the US.

Italy convicted Omar in 2013 in his absence of "criminal association for the purposes of international terrorism" and sentenced him to six years in prison.

Extradition call

A statement from Mr Mattarella's office said that in reducing the sentences, the president took into consideration US President Barack Obama's decision to end the practice of extraordinary renditions.

The statement said that Italy and the EU consider the practice of rendition - taking suspects from foreign soil without permission - "incompatible with the fundamental principles of a state of law".

Commenting on the decision, Gauri van Gulik of Amnesty International said "the right thing to do would be to insist on extraditing them to Italy".

In 2013, President Mattarella's predecessor, Giorgio Napolitano, also cited Mr Obama's decision to end extraordinary rendition when he pardoned a US Air Force colonel, the only military defendant among the Americans in the case.

Niccolo Pollari, Italy's former intelligence chief, who resigned over the affair, was convicted at a retrial in February 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He insisted he knew nothing about the kidnapping.

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