Former CIA station chief arrested in Panama ‘has been released’

Panama-Costa Rica borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
A former station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency, who was detained in Panama last week for his alleged role in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Italy, returned to the United States on Friday. The US Department of State said Robert Seldon Lady had been released by Panamanian authorities 24 hours after he was detained near Panama’s border with Costa Rica. Lady was the CIA’s station chief in Milan in February 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA operatives, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. In 2005, Italian authorities, which had not authorized Nasr’s kidnapping, convicted Lady, along with 22 other Americans, of abduction. The convictions were delivered in absentia, as the Americans had earlier left the country. Washington has refused to extradite them to Rome. Lady was crossing from Panama into Costa Rica at a remote jungle border crossing early on Thursday, when, according to Costa Rican authorities, “a check on his passport triggered an INTERPOL alert”. Following negotiations between Costa Rican and Panamanian authorities, Lady was detained by Panamanian border guards, who alerted INTERPOL and Italy. Late on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to offer details on the case, but confirmed that Lady was “either en route or back in the United States”. A Panamanian foreign ministry source told Reuters that Lady was released because “Panama does not have an extradition treaty with Italy and because documentation sent by Italian officials was insufficient”. On Saturday, however, Italy’s Minister of Justice, Anna Maria Cancellieri, issued a statement saying she was “astonished to observe that [Italy’s extradition] request was disregarded without plausible explanation”. But Panama’s Minister for Public Safety, Jose Mulino, responded saying that Lady had been allowed to return to the US because Italy failed to request his extradition within the officially allotted time of 48 hours. The CIA has refused comment on the case.

7 Responses to Former CIA station chief arrested in Panama ‘has been released’

  1. CIA & accountability are mutually exclusive concepts. No surprises here…

  2. Mo says:

    Panama pulled a Hong Kong on Italy!!! Incredible. However, Panama was not responsible for extraditiing Lady – Interpol should have been responsible for arresting him and taking him back to do his time. CIA will get no cooperation from Italy on anything from now on. But I am certain this will all be immediately pushed under the rug again and the CIA will give Italy something or someone else in return. This all makes me sick!

  3. Paul says:

    There’s no surprise here, I think.

  4. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Hopefully there’s a not to subtle message in this event and one that Edward Snowden would do well to take heed of.

  5. TFH says:

    Panama governement and civil service are proud of their work, especially when it comes to fighting the big devil. They must have gotten some deal, they must have.

  6. TFH says:

    @Paul, Pete and Peter: The enemy is not USA, it’s complacency.

  7. Paul says:

    For once TFH I have to agree – but what intel agency wouldn’t take an opening to bring an operative in?

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