Italy makes a stand on ‘Extraordinary Rendition’

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON writing in the Guardian

ROME (AP) – Italy is preparing to request the extradition of 13 purported CIA officers accused of kidnapping a terrorism suspect and secretly transporting him to Egypt, a court official said Tuesday.

Prosecutors also have asked the help of Interpol in tracking down the suspects, all identified as U.S. citizens, said the official who asked that his name not be used because the investigation was still under way.

The 13 were accused of seizing Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, and sending him to Egypt, where he reportedly was tortured, according to Milan prosecutor Manlio Claudio Minale.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome and the CIA in Washington have declined to comment.

In announcing the arrest warrants Friday, the Milan prosecutor’s office said it will ask for American and Egyptian assistance in the case.

The Egyptian preacher was spirited away in 2003, purportedly as part of the CIA’s ”extraordinary rendition” program in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible torture.

The order for the arrests in the transfer of the cleric was a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally. It brought renewed calls Tuesday by leftist opposition parties for Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government to answer questions in parliament on whether Italian officials were involved.

The judge’s order explaining the need for the arrests said the suspects’ links to ”foreign intelligence services” gave them the particular ability to destroy evidence and disrupt the investigation.

Some of the 13 names listed in the order might be aliases because that’s often a practice of such operatives overseas. Several gave U.S. post office boxes as their addresses.

One of the suspects, described as playing a key role, was identified in the judge’s 213-page order as the former Milan CIA station chief, Robert Seldon Lady. It said he had been listed as a diplomat, but was retired and living near Turin.

The Milan prosecutor’s office called the imam’s disappearance a kidnapping and a blow to a terrorism investigation in Italy. The office said the imam was believed to belong to an Islamic terrorist group.