MILAN (Reuters) – A Milan court has issued a European arrest warrant for 22 CIA agents suspected of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Italy’s financial capital in 2003, Prosecutor Armando Spataro said on Friday.
Milan magistrates suspect a CIA team grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and flew him for interrogation to Egypt, where he said he was tortured.
Prosecutors asked the Italian Justice Ministry last month to seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States, but Justice Minister Roberto Castelli has not yet decided whether to act on the request.
A European Union warrant is automatically valid across the 25-nation bloc and does not require approval of any government.
The warrant was agreed by the European Union in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and was hailed as a key part of the bloc’s fight against terrorism.
Spataro told Reuters he had also asked Interpol to try to detain the suspects anywhere in the world.
Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he did not believe CIA agents had kidnapped Nasr, but added that governments were not going to defeat terrorism by playing by the rules.
Justice officials believe Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, is still in custody in Egypt. Italian investigators have accused him of ties to al Qaeda and recruiting combatants for Iraq, and a Milan judge has issued a warrant for his arrest.
There has been a series of investigations into whether U.S. intelligence officials used Europe as a hub to illegally transfer militant suspects to third countries for interrogation.
The U.S. embassy in Rome was not immediately available for comment.