Italy: high court deals blow to CIA “rendition” trial

Italy‘s highest court ruled March 11 that an investigation into the role of US and Italian intelligence agents in the kidnapping of an Egyptian terrorism suspect breached state secrets. It was not immediately clear whether the Constitutional Court’s ruling will force a lower court to shelve the trial of 26 Americans and seven Italians when proceedings resume on March 18.

The court found that prosecutors’ telephone surveillance of the country’s intelligence services contravened state secrecy laws. Twenty-five CIA agents and a US air force colonel are being tried in absentia in the case looking at the detention of Osama Mustafa Hussan Nasr AKA Abu Omar. Seven Italians, including Nicolo Pollari, the former head of Italian military intelligence, are also charged.

Abu Omar was seized from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, and turned over to Egypt. Held without charge for four years in a high-security prison outside Cairo, he says was he was repeatedly tortured there under interrogation and subject to humiliating treatment.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was in power at the time of Abu Omar’s disappearance, has long challenged the trial, arguing that if state secrets come out in open court the world intelligence community could ostracize Italy. However, the Constitutional Court did not explicitly annul the trial, and did not uphold all of the Italian state’s arguments. (AlJazeera, March 12; Reuters, March 11)

See our last posts on the torture/detainment scandal and the Abu Omar case.

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