US moves to shield operatives in CIA abduction case

Hassan Nasr

Hassan Nasr

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The US government has moved to officially prevent Italian authorities from prosecuting an American Colonel who in 2003 was involved in the illegal kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan. If the Reuters report is accurate, it will be the first time that Washington moves officially to shield its covert operatives from prosecution in the Italian court system. Colonel Joseph Romano is one of 26 Americans, many of them CIA agents, believed to have been involved in the daylight abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr from a Milan street. Nasr, who is also known as Abu Omar, says he was brutally tortured and held illegally for years without charge in Egypt, where he was renditioned by his American abductors. Based on Nasr’s charges, the Italian government, which had not authorized the cleric’s kidnapping, was able to trace the CIA operatives through the substantial trail of evidence they left behind, including telephone records and bill invoices in luxury hotels in Milan and elsewhere. The US has so far refused to extradite to Italy any of the 26 Americans identified by Italian authorities as having participated in Nasr’s abduction. What is more, Washington formally invoked the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (NATO SOFA) on Monday, thus arguing that the accused were operating “in the course of official duty” and fall therefore under US, not Italian, jurisdiction. Romano, who at the time of Nasr’s kidnapping was commander of security forces at the US Air Force base in Aviano, Italy, has refused comment on the case. Last July, however, Robert Seldon Lady, who in 2003 was the CIA’s station chief in Milan, and is wanted by Italian authorities in connection with the Nasr case, told an Italian newspaper that his only regret was that his CIA team was “so unprofessional” as to leave behind a considerable trail of evidence. A few days later, another individual involved in the case, Sabrina Desousa, who in 2003 was listed as a “diplomat” in the US embassy in Rome, requested immunity from prosecution. The Nasr abduction case is seen in Europe as the most important court case involving extraordinary rendition and torture by US government agents after 9/11.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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