Judge Oscar Magi of the Fourth Chamber of the Court of Milan Nov. 4 convicted 23 former CIA agents for the 2003 kidnapping and rendition of Egyptian terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. The nearly three-year trial, which was delayed many times, is the first in the world involving the CIA’s extraordinary rendition flights. Former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady was sentenced to eight years in prison, while 22 other Americans were sentenced to five years. Magi acquitted three other Americans, finding diplomatic immunity, and five Italian operatives, due to Italy’s withholding of evidence because of national security issues.
The convicted Americans were tried in absentia and are not in custody. A US State Department spokesperson said the US is “disappointed by the verdicts,” but declined to comment further. The enforceability of the verdicts remains in question as sentences in Italy are not served until all appeals are exhausted.
Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was seized on the streets of Milan in 2003 by CIA agents with the help of Italian operatives, then allegedly transferred to Egypt and tortured by Egypt’s State Security Intelligence before being released in February 2007. In September, the US Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former State Department official Sabrina De Sousa seeking diplomatic immunity against the Italian charges. De Sousa was one of the Americans sentenced to five years. The CIA’s rendition program has been the source of much controversy and litigation. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced the US would continue its practice of sending terror detainees to third countries for interrogation with increased oversight by the State Department to prevent torture. (Jurist, Nov. 4)