5 Nov 2009

CIA agents jailed over Muslim cleric kidnap

7:14 am on 5 November 2009

An Italian judge has convicted 23 Americans - all but one of them CIA agents - and two Italian secret agents of the 2003 kidnap of a Muslim cleric.

The agents were accused of abducting Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, from Milan and sending him to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured, the BBC reports.

The trial, which began in June 2007, is the first involving the CIA's so-called "extraordinary rendition" programme.

Three Americans and five Italians were acquitted by the court in Milan.

The Americans were all tried in their absence after the United States refused to extradite them.

The CIA's Milan station chief at the time, Robert Lady, was jailed for eight years, while the other 22 Americans convicted were sentenced to five years in prison. One was not identified by prosecutors as a CIA agent.

The Italian agents were jailed for three years.

Prosecutors said Abu Omar was taken as part of a series of extraordinary renditions carried out by the CIA - when terror suspects were moved between countries without any public legal process.

They told the court Abu Omar had been kidnapped on a Milan street in 2003 and flown to Germany, then Egypt, where he was held for years until being released without charge.

Judge Oscar Magi acquitted the CIA chief for Rome, Jeffrey Castelli, saying he was protected by state secrecy laws, as were the former head of Italy's military intelligence agency, Nicolo Pollari, and his deputy, Marco Mancini.

Mr Pollari, who resigned over the affair, told the court this year that documents showing he had no involvement in the kidnapping were classified under secrecy laws.