Ex-CIA officer seeks Italian pardon for role in abduction operation
September 13, 2013
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who has been convicted in absentia in Italy for his role in an abduction operation, has contacted the Italian president seeking a formal pardon. Robert Seldon Lady was the CIA 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. Earlier this week, Lady wrote a letter to the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, saying he had never intended to “disrespect Italy’s sovereignty” and asking for the President’s “personal forgiveness and pardon”. In his letter, Lady argues that he operated “under orders from senior American officials” with the aim of protecting lives, adding that US intelligence activities had been able to “stop numerous plans and targets of terrorists operating in Milan and elsewhere in Italy”. The former CIA officer also claims that the 2003 kidnapping of Nasr had taken place “in liaison with senior members of the Italian government”. He concludes by expressing his “regret” for his “participation in any activities which could be viewed as contrary to the laws of Italy”. Last July, Lady was crossing from Panama into Costa Rica when an INTERPOL alert, issued by Italy, led to his detention by Panamanian border guards. Eventually, Lady was released because, according to Panamanian officials, “Panama does not have an extradition treaty with Italy and because documentation sent by Italian officials was insufficient”. Soon afterwards, 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”. The Office of the President of the Italian Republic has yet to respond to Lady’s request.