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Italy denies any involvement in CIA rendition of Egyptian

Abu Omar was kidnapped from Italy by the CIA in 2003 [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 June, 2015

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Italy has argued that it had nothing to do with the 2003 rendition of an Egyptian wanted on terrorism-related charges in a hearing in the European Court of Human rights.

Italy denied any involvement on Tuesday in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" of an Egyptian imam kidnapped in Milan in 2003 on charges of terrorist connections.

Abu Omar "was captured exclusively by CIA agents", Paola Accardo, lawyer for the Italian government, told the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg at a hearing yesterday on the rendition case.

"The applicant was never - not even for one moment - in the hands of Italian authorities, nor has he been lawfully detained for any time by Italian authorities," said Accardo.

Abu Omar, also known as Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, brought the case after kidnapping convictions against top Italian intelligence operatives were overthrown on appeal last year.

The applicant was never, not even for one moment, in the hands of Italian authorities.
- Paola Accardo, lawyer for the Italian government

His was one of the most notorious cases of the West's "extraordinary rendition" programme, in which "terrorist" suspects were kidnapped and taken to countries where they could be detained and tortured with impunity.

Omar was taken to Egypt, where he was held in secret for more than a year. He says he was tortured during his time in captivity.

"The applicant was immediately removed by the CIA from Italian territory, the same day of the kidnapping," said Italy's lawyer.

But the kidnapping - in broad daylight, by an ally of Italy - became a scandal in the country when it was revealed, and led to a major investigation.

CIA officers convicted

In 2012, 22 CIA agents and a US army officer were sentenced in absentia to between seven and nine years in prison, but were never extradited to Italy to serve their sentences.

Several members of the Italian military intelligence service, Sismi, were also convicted, including its top two officials, Marco Mancini and Nicolo Pollari, who received nine and ten years in prison, respectively.

Their convictions were quashed on appeal in February 2014, on the basis that the evidence should have been covered by state secrecy laws.

Omar's lawyer, Luca Bauccio, said that decision was "a scandal".

In 2012, 22 CIA agents and a US army officer were sentenced in absentia to between seven and nine years in prison.

He also criticised Rome for failing to seek the extradition of the convicted US agents.

Italy's lawyer responded states only seek extradition "if there is a realistic chance of success".

Omar, who now lives in Egypt and does not have the right to travel abroad, was also convicted in absentia and sentenced to six years by an Italian court in 2013.

Prosecutors said he collaborated with 13 militants between 2000 and 2003 "with the aim of carrying out acts of terrorist violence in Italy and abroad".

He had political asylum at the time of his kidnapping in 2013. He was allegedly taken by the CIA to the Aviano US air base in northeast Italy, flown to a US base in Germany, and on to Cairo.

The ECHR will rule on his case in the coming months.

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