Sentences over CIA rendition upheld
ITALIAN JUSTICE may have established an important precedent when the High Court upheld the convictions of 23 Americans, all but one of them CIA operatives, involved in the 2003 “forced rendition” in Milan of jihadist imam, Abu Omar. Speaking after the ruling, Milan-based prosecutor Armando Spataro said the judgment had effectively found that extraordinary rendition was “incompatible with democracy”.
Italian secret service surveillance of the Milan mosques of Via Quaranta and Viale Jenner revealed imam Abu Omar to be an Islamic radical who regularly called on young people to offer themselves up as suicide bombers.
Agents from the special operations division allegedly discovered links between Abu Omar, al- Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the militant Islamist responsible for a series of killings in Iraq.
Then, on February 17th, 2003, CIA agents abducted Abu Omar on the street outside his Milan home. Special operations wiretaps revealed that 17 mobile phones, most of which were traced to CIA agents staying in Milan hotels, were used repeatedly during a five-minute period at midday outside the imam’s residence. Abu Omar was then taken to the US base of Aviano and from there to prison in Egypt, where he claims he was beaten and tortured.
Although the 23 Americans have received seven-year sentences in absentia, there appears little likelihood Italy will request their extradition. So far, no Italian government has made such a request and the US government has already refused to extradite the agents. A spokesperson for the Italian justice ministry acknowledged the obvious yesterday when stating that the Abu Omar case was “political” as well as “juridical”.
However, Julia Hall of Human Rights Watch said: “We have one of the highest courts in a European country upholding the convictions of CIA agents for really egregious human rights violations . . . our hope is that the United States would . . . begin to co-operate with people who are trying to reveal the truth about what happened during the Bush era.”