Italian prosecutor wants stiffer CIA kidnapping sentences
The CIA’s 2003 kidnapping of a suspected al-Qaeda operative is back in court, with the Milan prosecutor asking for stiffer sentences for all those convicted in the case and a reversal of the acquittal of three others.
Last November, 23 Americans, all but one of them CIA operatives, were convicted in absentia of kidnapping, the first such case to result from the Bush administration’s extraordinary renditions program.
According to evidence introduced at the trial, a CIA team abducted Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street and dispatched him to an Egyptian prison in February 2003. Free but under watch in Egypt, Nasr says he was tortured and has shown reporters his scars.
The agency’s Milan base chief, Robert Seldon Lady, now retired and thought to be living in Central America, was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison.
Prosecutor Piero De Petris asked the court Thursday to add two years to Lady’s sentence, and to increase the others' sentences from five years to eight.
De Petris also argued that the CIA’s station chief in Rome at the time, Jeffrey Castelli, as well as two others, Ralph Henry Russomando and Betnie Medero-Navedo, should not have escaped conviction on the basis of diplomatic immunity, and is asking for a reversal of the decision.
Another former CIA operative, Sabrina De Sousa, has argued that her official posting as an American diplomat in Rome and Milan should have precluded her being tried.
The lawyer for another American convicted in the case, Air Force Col. Joseph L. Romano, renewed his request that his client be tried in a U.S. court, arguing that Italy had no jurisdiction over him under NATO agreements.
Although U.S. officials have strongly indicated they will never extradite them, the convicted Americans risk arrest if they enter a European Union country.
Steve Hendricks, author of a new book on the case, “A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial,” said that chief prosecutor Armando Spataro "has been under pressure to dilute or drop the case" since he brought it in 2005.
“But he’s a man of principle, and he has always believed it’s essential for the health of both the Italian and American polities to press the case to the fullest,” Hendricks said by e-mail.
“The reason, I think, that he has ignored these critics is that he understands what so many of us have forgotten: snatching a man and sending him to a Third World dungeon to be tortured is not just a crime but a crime against humanity,” he added.
“In that light, the sentences he won--eight years for the CIA’s Milan chief, Bob Lady, and five years for the rest of the kidnappers--are mere slaps on the wrist. Hence the prosecution's request today for stronger sentences.”
The CIA has consistently refused to comment on the case.
Spataro “could have asked for longer sentences,” Hendricks added. “Asking for only 10 years for Lady, when they had asked for 12 at the initial trial, seems to me a sign that they’re trying to make it slightly easier for a judge to go along with them. It’s a small nod to political reality.”
| October 29, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Intelligence, Lawandcourts, Military
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