Imam Rapito affair


Imam Rapito affair

The Abu Omar Case (or Imam Rapito affair - "Kidnapped Imam affair") refers to the abduction and transfer to Egypt of the Imam of Milan Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. The case was picked by the international media as one of the better documented cases of extraordinary rendition carried out by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the context of the "global war on terrorism" declared by the Bush administration.

Abu Omar was abducted on February 17, 2003 in Milan by the CIA. and transported to the Aviano Air Base, from which he was transferred to Egypt, where he was secluded, interrogated and allegedly tortured and abused [http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Cronache/2005/06_Giugno/24/imam.shtml "I pm di Milano: arrestate gli agenti della Cia"] , Corriere della Sera, 24 giugno 2005.] . The CIA operation interrupted a surveillance programme that was being carried out by Italian authorities into Nasr's alleged participation in Islamic organizations. Hassan Nasr was released by an Egyptian court in February 2007, which ruled that his detention was "unfounded". He has not been indicted for any criminal offence in Italy.

The Italian government originally denied having played any role in the abduction. However Italian prosecutors Armando Spataro and Ferdinand Enrico Pomarici indicted 26 CIA agents, including the Rome station chief and head of CIA in Italy until 2003, Jeffrey W. Castelli, and Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, as well as SISMI head General Nicolò Pollari, his second Marco Mancini and station chiefs Raffaele Ditroia, Luciano Di Gregori and Giuseppe Ciorra [http://www.repubblica.it/2007/02/sezioni/cronaca/abu-omar-pollari/abu-omar-pollari/abu-omar-pollari.html "Rapimento Abu Omar, a giudizio l'ex capo del Sismi Nicolò Pollari"] , La Repubblica, 16 febbraio 2007.] . Referring to the Italian military intelligence agency, the Italian press has talked of a "CIA-SISMI concerted operation." The prosecutors sent extradition requests for the indicted American citizens to the Italian Ministry of Justice, then headed by Roberto Castelli, for onward transmission to Washington. However Castelli refused to forward the demand for extradition.

The affair also created controversy within the CIA when the story came to light in 2005. [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/washington/20intel.html?_r=1&ex=1361163600&en=f22e6b05614d3dbc&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin Tape Inquiry: Ex-Spymaster in the Middle - New York Times ] ] Porter J. Goss the director of the CIA at the time, ordered the agency’s independent inspector general to begin a review of the operation. Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then head of the National Clandestine Service (NCS), stopped the inspector general's review, stating that the NCS would investigate itself.

Investigation of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr

Hasaan Mustafa Osama Nasr was a radical Egyptian cleric and alleged member of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya Fact|date=February 2007 who had fled Egypt due to that group's prosecution as a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government. He was granted political asylum in Italy in 2001, and held an Italian asylum passport.

As early as Spring 2002, he was under investigation by Italian and American intelligence agencies by means of wiretaps and physical and electronic surveillance. Italian authorities have claimed that they believed that they had evidence Nasr was building a network to recruit terrorists, and possibly had links to Al Qaeda Fact|date=February 2007. They alleged in particular links with Ansar al-Islam and ties to a network sending combattants in the Iraqi Kurdistan. However, citing Jason Burke's book on Al-Qaeda, British reporter at "The Observer", "La Repubblica" noted in June 2005 that in 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration was claiming, along with British prime minister Tony Blair, that Iraq maintained close links with Al-Qaeda, in particular through Ansar al-Islam. The Italian newspaper concluded that the Abu Omar case was a "chapter in the combination of intelligence-psychological warfare-information war engaged by Washington and London to justify the invasion of Iraq." [http://www.repubblica.it/2005/e/sezioni/cronaca/islamici/inchiestazoppa/inchiestazoppa.html L'imam rapito a Milano dalla Cia - I silenzi e la complicità con Washington] , "La Repubblica", June 28, 2005 it icon ] Liptak, A. (2005). "Experts Say Trial Unlikely for CIA Operatives". "The New York Times", June 27, 2005.] Grey, S. and D. Van Natta. (2005). [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/26/international/europe/26milan.html?pagewanted=all "In Italy, Anger at U.S. Tactics Colors Spy Case"] . "The New York Times", June 26, 2005.] There are also reports that Nasr was involved in plotting a terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Rome, and was suspected of being involved in a plot to bomb a number of children of foreign diplomats attending the American School of Milan, although sources disagree whether such plots even existed. [Crewdson, J. and T. Hundley. (2005). "Abducted imam aided CIA ally in war on terror". "The Chicago Tribune, July 2, 2005.]

Most observers have come to believe that Nasr was abducted by the United States as a source of intelligence on foreign combatants being recruited to fight in Iraq, which, at the time, the United States had yet to invade.

Abduction and rendition to Egypt

On February 17, 2003, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr was abducted by persons allegedly affiliated with the CIA as he walked to his mosque in Milan for noon prayers [http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/20060224.FIG000001516_auditions_sur_le_rapt_d_un_imam_par_la_cia.html Auditions sur le rapt d'un imam par la CIA] , "Le Figaro", February 24, 2006 fr icon ] .

According to court documents, Nasr was pushed into a minivan on Via Croce Viola in Milan and driven four or five hours to a joint Italian-U.S. air base at Aviano. He was allegedly tortured there [http://www.repubblica.it/2005/e/sezioni/cronaca/islamici/inchiestazoppa/inchiestazoppa.html L'imam rapito a Milano dalla Cia - I silenzi e la complicità con Washington] , "La Repubblica", June 28, 2005 it icon ] . From there, he was flown by a Lear jet (using the call sign SPAR 92) to Ramstein, Germany. SPAR (Special Air Resources) is the call sign used by US senior military officers and civilian VIPs for airlift transportHooper, J. (2005). [http://www.guardian.co.uk/italy/story/0,12576,1519576,00.html "CIA methods exposed by kidnap inquiry"] . "The Guardian UK", July 2, 2005.] [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article732439.ece US military planes criss-cross Europe using bogus call sign] , "The Sunday Times", February 19, 2006 en icon ] A second plane then took him to Cairo, where he was imprisoned and, he claims, tortured.

In April 2004, while his incarceration had been downgraded to house arrest, Nasr placed several phone calls from Egypt to his family and friends. He told them he had been rendered into the hands of Egypt's SSI at Tura prison, twenty miles south of Cairo. [http://www.repubblica.it/2006/10/sezioni/cronaca/sismi-mancini6/abu-omar-presto-libero/abu-omar-presto-libero.html Parla l'avvocato di Abu Omar "L'imam sarà liberato a giorni"] ] He claimed to have been subjected to various depredations, tortured by beating and electric shocks to the genitals, raped [http://www.repubblica.it/news/ired/ultimora/2006/rep_nazionale_n_2099822.html?ref=hpsbdx1 ABU OMAR: "IN EGITTO FUI STUPRATO, BERLUSCONI LO SAPPIA"] , "La Repubblica", it icon ] , and eventually had lost hearing in one ear. At the time of the calls he had been released on the orders of an Egyptian judge because of lack of evidence. Shortly after those calls were made he was re-arrested and placed back in prison.

Nasr was not released again until February 11, 2007, at which time he was permitted to return to his family. After four years of detention, an Egyptian court ruled that his imprisonment was "unfounded." International Herald Tribune, 16 February 2007, [http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/02/16/europe/EU-GEN-Italy-CIA-Kidnap.php Italy indicts 31 linked to CIA rendition case] en icon]

In 2006, Nasr's lawyer Montasser el-Zayat said Nasr was underfed but there were "no signs of torture." [http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/archives/2006/04/abducted_imam_s.html#more "Abducted imam seeks return to Italy"] , "ANSA", April 7, 2006]

Investigation and warrants for CIA operatives

The CIA agents were implicated, in part, by extensive cellphone records which allowed Milan police to reconstruct their movements for the nine days they were in the city. Because the agents had apparently not, at any time, removed the batteries from their cellphones, investigators were able to pinpoint their locations from moment to moment. The agents also made numerous phone calls to the US consulate in Milan, to northern Virginia (where the CIA headquarters are located) and to friends and family in the United States.

The operation was allegedly led by Robert Seldon Lady, former CIA station chief in Milan, who was then operating out of the U.S. embassy under diplomatic cover as the "Consul of the United States in Milan." The operation was carried out by the CIA's Special Activities Division. Lady has said that he opposed the abduction plans, but was overruled.BBC. (2007). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6368269.stm "Italy orders CIA kidnapping trial"] . "BBC.com", February 16, 2007.] Lady has since retired from the CIA, which puts him a precarious legal position, as the status of his diplomatic immunity is now in doubt. Photos of Robert Lady recently have surfaced on the Web. [Robert Lady photos. [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/03/30/18385947.php "Wanted Poster for CIA's Robert Lady in Imam Rapito"] . "Indymedia", March 30, 2007.]

In December 2005, CIA Director Porter Goss ordered a sweeping review of the agency's field operations because of what he perceived as the Milan rendition's "sloppiness".Crewdson, J. (2005). [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/948035881.html?dids=948035881:948035881&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Dec+25%2C+2005&author=John+Crewdson%2C+Tribune+senior+correspondent&pub=Chicago+Tribune&edition=&startpage=1&desc=CIA%27s+bungled+Italy+job+ "The CIA's bungled Italy Job"] . "The Chicago Tribune", December 25, 2005.]

In June 2005, Italian judge Guido Salvini issued warrants for the arrest of 22 persons said to be agents or operatives of the CIA, including Jeffrey W. Castelli, head of the CIA in Italy until 2003 . Salvini said the abduction was illegal because it violated Italian sovereignty and international law and disrupted an ongoing police investigation. He also issued a warrant for the arrest of Nasr, on charges of associating with terrorists.

In November 2005, Italian prosecutors requested that Italy's Justice Ministry seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States. The Italian government declined.

On December 20, 2005, European arrest warrants were issued for the 22 suspects. [CNN. (2005). [http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/12/23/italy.warrants2/index.html "Italy warrants for 22 purported CIA operatives"] . "CNN.com", December 23, 2005.]

In April 2006, just after the Italian general election, outgoing Justice Minister Roberto Castelli (Lega Nord) told prosecutors that he had decided not to pass the extradition request to the United States.

One of the "concerted CIA-SISMI operations"

The abduction occurred without the knowledge of at least the Italian intelligence and law enforcement officials working directly on the Nasr case, who initially suspected that Nasr had been kidnapped by the Egyptian government, possibly with the cooperation of other branches of the Italian government. When the Italians questioned their American counterparts about Nasr's disappearance, they were told he had traveled voluntarily to the Balkans.

Furthermore, Italian officials initially denied the Italian government had authorized or sanctioned a US operation to kidnap Nasr. Italian Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Carlo Giovanardi, member of Silvio Berlusconi's second and third government, said in no uncertain terms to the Italian parliament: "Our secret services were not aware of the operation ... It was never brought to the attention of the government or national institutions."

But former CIA officials contradicted this by claiming the agency had secured the consent of Italian intelligence, and that the CIA's station chief in Rome, Jeffrey W. Castelli, had been granted explicit permission for the operation by his Italian counterpart.Wilkinson, T. and G. Miller. (2005). [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/861434211.html?dids=861434211:861434211&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Jul+1%2C+2005&author=Tracy+Wilkinson+and+Greg+Miller&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&edition=&startpage=A.1&desc=Italy+Says+It+Didn%27t+Know+of+CIA+Plan "Italy Says It Didn't Know of CIA Plan"] . "The Los Angeles Times", July 1, 2005.] Furthermore, the circumstances of Nasr's abduction tended to accredit the thesis of at least passive support of the operation by Italian intelligence services. In particular, questions were raised by the CIA agents' startling laxity in travel arrangements. By all accounts, they did little to cover their tracks. Instead of fleeing immediately, most of them remained in Italy days after the operation, in some of Milan's best hotels. Only some of them used aliases. The rest traveled with their normal passports and drivers licenses, paid for things with credit cards in their real names, chatted openly on cell phones before, during, and after the operation. After the abduction, they even carelessly bypassed speed limits in Milan. Some have speculated this represents evidence of Italian complicity, as little apparent effort was made to obfuscate the identities of the participants.

This hypothesis was confirmed by Italian investigations. On 5 July 2006 two high-ranking Italian intelligence officers were arrested by Italian police for their alleged complicity in Abu Omar's kidnapping. These included Marco Mancini, number 2 of SISMI, Italy's military intelligence agency, and Gustavo Pignero, the agency's chief for the northern region of Italy. Italian wiretaps caught Mancini admitting that he had lied about his involvement in the abduction case. These arrests signaled the first official admission that Italian intelligence agents were involved in the abduction. Additionally, the former head of SISMI's Milan office, Col. Stefano D'Ambrosio, claims that he was removed from his position by his superiors because of his objections to the abduction plot; he was later replaced by Mancini.Wilkinson, T. (2006). [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/1072876201.html?dids=1072876201:1072876201&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Jul+7%2C+2006&author=Tracy+Wilkinson&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&edition=&startpage=A.4&desc=The+World "Italian Probe Broadens Beyond Abduction: Prosecutors in the case of a Muslim cleric seek evidence of illegal spying by intelligence officers. Some journalists also may be involved."] "The Los Angeles Times", July 7, 2006.]

Thus, public prosecutors Armando Spataro and Pomarici have described the abduction as "a concerted CIA-SISMI operation" organized by "Italian and American agents" with the aim of the "capture" and "secret transfer" of the imam to Egypt Paolo Biondani and Guido Olimpio. 11 July 2006 "Corriere della Sera", "Un centro segreto Cia-Sismi" [http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Cronache/2006/07_Luglio/10/sismi.shtml available here] it icon ] . Paolo Biondani and Italian counter-terrorist expert Guido Olimpio cited the 18 November 2005 article published by Dana Priest in the "Washington Post", where she described the CTIC (Counter-Terrorism Intelligence Center), a "joint operation centers in more than two dozen countries where U.S. and foreign intelligence officers work side by side to track and capture suspected terrorists and to destroy or penetrate their networks. [ Dana Priest, "The Washington Post", 18 November 2005. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/17/AR2005111702070_pf.html Foreign Network at Front of CIA's Terror Fight - Joint Facilities in Two Dozen Countries Account for Bulk of Agency's Post-9/11 Successes] en icon ] " Italy was not included in this international alliance of intelligence agencies, which largest base was in Paris, named Alliance Base.

According to Guido Olimpio and Paolo Biondani, Italy was not included in the CTIC allegedly because of internal jealousy between various Italian intelligence agencies. But they noted that, despite that, the arrest ordonnance against Marco Mancini and his superior General Gustavo Pignero referred to the operation as an example of the "non orthodox activity" (the only one known of) realized by the CIA and the SISMI "since 2002," thus demonstrating some sort of cooperation between US and Italian intelligence agencies, albeit not in the frame of the CTIC.

Furthermore, according to testimonies by SISMI agents to the Italian justice, Mancini proposed himself to the CIA as a "double agent" According to Colonel Stefano D'Ambrosio, former SISMI responsible in Milan replaced by Mancini, the CIA refused to hire the latter because they considered him too "venal." But his demand "left traces in the computer" of the US intelligence . All SISMI testimonies converge in saying that Mancini owed his dazzling career to his "privileged relations with the CIA. " According to SISMI testimony, after the 17 February 2003 kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Nasr, then CIA director George Tenet sent a letter to SISMI General Nicolò Pollari in August 2003, to which Mancini would allegedly owe the real reasons of his promotion to number 2 of the SISMI . In another, earlier article, the same author, Guido Olimpio, wrote that following the abduction of the imam, SISMI informed the Italian government and then the CIA, assuring them that no agent who had taken part in this covert operation would be caught by the justice. In turn, CIA director George Tenet would have sent a letter to Forte Braschi, the SISMI headquarters in Rome [http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Esteri/2005/10_Ottobre/30/sismi.shtml E il Sismi tese la mano ai nemici della Cia] , "Corriere della Sera", 31 October 2005 it icon ] .

Furthermore, apart of the July 2006 arrest of Marco Mancini, n°2 of the SISMI, and of Gustavo Pignero, the agency's chief for the northern region of Italy, the head of SISMI General Nicolò Pollari had to resign in November 2006 because of the affair and was indicted in December by the Milanese judges.

The trial

In addition to the 22 European arrest warrants issued in December 2005 and the arrest of the above-mentioned SISMI officers, an Italian judge issued additional arrest warrants for four Americans, three CIA agents and for Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. Romano III, commander of security forces at the Aviano Air Base at the time, now working at Section 31b of the Pentagon [ [http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0705-06.htm Italian Spies Arrested, Americans Sought for Kidnap] ] . Ultimately, twenty-six Americans and nine Italians (including head of SISMI Nicolò Pollari, n°2 of the same intelligence agency Marco Mancini, as well as General Gustavo Pignero; and also the junior ROS officer Giuliano Pironi) were indicted [http://www.liberation.fr/actualite/monde/235678.FR.php Rapt d'un imam à Milan: la CIA va devoir s'expliquer] , "Libération", February 16, 2007 fr icon ] . The trial would be the first criminal trial related to the U.S. practice of extraordinary rendition.

The start of the trial was set for June 8, 2007, although it was adjourned until October 2007, pending an upcoming ruling by Italy's Constitutional Court regarding the possible violation of state secrecy laws by Milan prosecutors who used phone taps on Italian agents during their investigation. [The Middle East Times. (2007). [http://www.metimes.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20070618-073721-8526r "CIA trial in Italy adjourned to October 24"] . "The Middle East Times". Retrieved June 24, 2007. ]

Two others Italian suspects reached plea bargains. Giuliano Pironi, who admitted stopping Nasr and controlling his identity during the kidnapping, was given a suspended sentence on one year, nine months and a day. Renato Farina, vice-director of "Libero" newspaper, who was hired by the SISMI in 1999 [ [http://www.repubblica.it/2006/07/sezioni/cronaca/sismi-mancini/le-confessioni-di-farina/le-confessioni-di-farina.html Farina confessa: con i servizi dal '99 "In via Nazionale la vera base di Pollari"] , Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo, "La Repubblica", 11 July 2006 it icon ] , was accused as an accessory. He was given six months sentence that was converted into a fine . Carabinieri Piniori testified that he asked for Nasr' identity papers on Robert Lady's request, and assured that the operation was a concerted CIA-SISMI operation European Parliament, "Temporary Committee on the Alleged Use of European Countries by the CIA for the Transport and the Illegal Detention of Prisoners", Rapporteur Giovanni Claudio Fava, DT/65174EN.doc 7 February 2007, made accessible by Statewatch [http://www.statewatch.org/news/2007/feb/ep-rendition-and-detention-wd-no-9.pdf here] , URL accessed on 18 February 2007 en icon ] . The first one to confess the involvement of the CIA and the SISMI in the abduction of Abu Omar, Piniori thought, when he participated in the operation, that he was passing a test to enter the SISMI. He later realized he had been instrumentalized [http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Cronache/2006/07_Luglio/23/biondani.html Gli investigatori del caso Abu Omar: così ci ha aiutato a incastrare il Sismi] , "Corriere della Sera", 23 July 2006 it icon]

Marco Mancini recognized to Milan prosecutors having followed orders of his superior General Pignero, who himself obeyed requests from Jeff Castelli, CIA head in Italy, to the director of the SISMI, General Pollari. Mancini confessed having organised a meeting in Bologna with all the heads of the SISMI centers. He illustrated on this occasion the plan for the abduction. The arrest warrants issued on 15 June 2006 against Jeff Castelli, others US agents, Mancini and Pignero were done on these grounds .

In the meantime, Milan prosecutor Armando Spataro found out the existence of an office, in the centre of Rome, linked to SISMI, in charge of 'secret operations.' It was directed by a close collaborator of head of SISMI Pollari. According to the European Parliament "Temporary Committee on the Alleged Use of European Countries by the CIA for the Transport and the Illegal Detention of Prisoners", headed by rapporteur Giovanni Claudio Fava:

"The main target of this office consisted in distorting the national press information, through journalists ad hoc hired by SISMI, by editing false reports with the aim to keep high the "terrorism alert" vis-à-vis the public opinion. Among the duties also the one of chasing and tapping the communications of the two journalists of the newspaper "La Repubblica" in charge of the Abu Omar case: Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'avanzo."

In a secretly registered conversation General Pignero, Mancini's superior, confirmed having met SISMI director Pollari right after a meeting with Jeff Castelli, head of the CIA in Italy. He said on this occasion that he had received by Pollari a list of names, among others that of Abu Omar, and to have been ordered to observe the Egyptian cleric in view of his abduction. Pignero then ordered Mancini to proceed with all these activities .

Interrogated by the Milan prosecutor in July 2006, General Pollari involved the Italian government and invoked a classified document. Romano Prodi's government has confirmed its classified status . During his hearing in August 2006 before the Italian Parliamentary Committee on Secret services control (Copaco), Pollari defended himself again invoking the raison d'état .

In October 2006, prosecutor Spataro transmitted to the European Temporary Committee a copy of a SISMI document, from which it comes out that SISMI was informed by the CIA on 15 May 2003 that Abu Omar was interrogated in Cairo by Egyptian servicse . Enrico Micheli, the Italian government's responsible for secret services, declared to the European committee that the Berlusconi administration had classified files related to the Abu Omar case, and that the Prodi administration confirmed such secrecy .

Any trial of American citizens is expected to happen in absentia. The United States is not expected to extradite the CIA operatives. As of February 2007, the Italian government has issued no extradition requests, although the Italian judiciary has been calling for the government to do so since 2005. Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, member of the new government of Romano Prodi, Prime minister of Italy since the 2006 general election, has still given no news of the extradition request given to him by Armando Spataro, the Milanese public prosecutor. Current Minister of Infrastructures and former prosecutor of Milan, Antonio di Pietro, has criticized on February 15, 2007 his governmental colleagues, claiming that the refuse to transmit the extradition requests to the US abounded to "cover an illegal operation, the kidnapping of a person."

Freed on February 11, 2007, Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr has deposed a complaint against former Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, demanding 10 million Euros of damage and interests "for his implication in the kidnapping as chief of the government [during the events] and for having permitted the CIA to capture him." [http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3214,36-868524@51-868421,0.html La justice italienne prépare le procès des vols de la CIA] , "Le Monde", February 17, 2007 fr icon ] .

The Italian executive has opposed the judges in Milan, by deposing a recourse before the Constitutional Court against Armando Spataro, charging him of having violated state secret by using the wiretaps recordings of SISMI agents . In particular, Romano Prodi's government accused the magistrates of having revealed the identity of 85 foreign and Italian spies "Libération", "Italie: les vols secrets de la CIA face aux juges," 17 February 2007 [http://www.liberation.fr/actualite/monde/235793.FR.php available here] fr icon ] The Italian government has said it will wait for the ruling before issuing the extradition requests [ Colleen Barry, Associated Press, published by the "Boston Globe", February 17, 2007, [http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2007/02/17/alleged_agents_of_cia_charged/ Alleged agents of CIA charged] en icon]

Political context

The exposé of the incident, coming just before Italy's general election, was a major embarrassment for the Berlusconi administration.Wilkinson, T. (2005). [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/947807361.html?dids=947807361:947807361&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Dec+24%2C+2005&author=Tracy+Wilkinson&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&edition=&startpage=A.3&desc=THE+WORLD "Court Widens Net for 22 CIA Agents to EU"] . "The Los Angeles Times", December 24, 2005.] If it had admitted foreknowledge of or complicity in the operation, it would have been admitting that one part of the government (its intelligence services) deliberately undermined the efforts of another (its judiciary). If it had denied any involvement, it would point to a serious lapse in Italian security, as it would mean foreign intelligence agencies would be able to pull off major operations within Italy, right under the nose of Italy's own intelligence agencies, with virtual impunity.

Either way, most observers thought it clear Silvio Berlusconi did not wish the case to proceed. He initially told the press that he did not believe the CIA was responsible for the abduction, and even if they were responsible, it was a justifiable action. He was widely quoted in the press as having said, "You can't tackle terrorism with a law book in your hand.". He then declared to ANSA agency: "This is a trial we absolutely should not have, and its result will be that our intelligence services will not longer have the cooperation of foreign intelligence" .

Berlusconi's successor, Romano Prodi, has thus far seemed more amenable to the judicial investigations, although is proceeding guardedly. Despite prosecutors' numerous requests, the Italian government still has issued no extradition requests to the United States.

The "Imam Rapito" case poses the problem of Italy's involvement in the US "War on Terror" .The incident also served to highlight tensions between Italy's fiercely independent judiciary and its executive administration (including the intelligence services), which would have preferred the judiciary didn't press the issue with the United States. During the Italian investigations into the incident, it was discovered that not only had SISMI (or a division of it) collaborated with the CIA in the abduction, it had also been illegally surveiling Italian citizens, particularly Italian magistrates unfriendly to the Berlusconi administration, often with the help of Italian journalists. Italian prosecutors believed reporters from right-wing paper [http://www.libero-news.it/libero/index.jsp Libero] used interviews with the lead prosecutor in the abduction case, Armando Spataro, as a pretext to glean confidential information to pass on to SISMI agents. On July 6, 2006, Libero's offices were raided by Italian police.

Furthermore, this case takes place after already difficult relations between Italy and the US. Berlusconi has engaged Italy in the war in Iraq, and Romano Prodi's electoral promise was to withdraw as soon as possible Italian troops from Iraq. The SISMI also lost an agent, Nicola Calipari, during Giuliana Sgrena's release in Iraq, causing diplomatic incidents with the US . Furthermore, allegations linked the Yellowcake forgery scandal to the SISMI [http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Esteri/2005/10_Ottobre/30/sismi.shtml E il Sismi tese la mano ai nemici della Cia] , "Corriere della Serra", 31 October 2005 it icon ] .

ee also

*Extraordinary rendition by the United States
*Human rights in Egypt
*Montasser el-Zayat
*SISMI-Telecom scandal, discovered by Italian justice during investigations concerning "Abu Omar"
*Italian political scandals

"Similar Cases:"

*Khalid El-Masri
*Mohammed Haydar Zammar

External links

* http://www.statewatch.org/cia/documents/milan-tribunal-6-us-citizens-sought-en.pdf
* [http://www.watchingamerica.com/corrieredellasera000006.html Watching America - Italy Says CIA Agents Guilty of Abduction, Issues Europe-Wide Arrest Warrants] 27/06/05
* [http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/CIA/activities/kidnapping/abu_omar/history.htm The Kidnapping of Abu Omar aka Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr - "A Document Archive"]

References


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