Thursday 24 May 2018

Italy grants partial clemency to ex-CIA agent in cleric abduction case

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nas was kidnapped from a Milan street in February 2003 (AP)
Osama Moustafa Hassan Nas was kidnapped from a Milan street in February 2003 (AP)

The Italian president has granted partial clemency to an ex-CIA agent on the eve of her expected extradition from Portugal to serve a prison sentence for her alleged role in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric.

The presidential palace said President Sergio Mattarella had shaved a year off Sabrina de Sousa's four-year sentence for her role in the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nas.

Also known as Abu Omar, he was kidnapped from a Milan street in February 2003.

The kidnapping was carried out under the US "extraordinary rendition" anti-terrorism programme launched after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The programme saw suspects kidnapped and transferred to centres abroad, where they were interrogated and often tortured.

De Sousa denied involvement. She had been due to be flown from Lisbon to Milan on Wednesday to start serving her sentence.

The palace noted that because her sentence was reduced to three years, she can serve the remainder of her term outside prison, although it is unclear if she will be able to do that in Portugal.

In evaluating her request for clemency, Mr Mattarella took into account "that the United States has interrupted the practice of extraordinary renditions", a reference to the Obama administration's decision to halt the programme.

Mr Mattarella and his predecessor cited the same circumstances in previously granting clemency to other defendants in the case.

She was one of 26 Americans who were tried and convicted in absentia for the cleric's kidnapping. Italian intelligence officers also were convicted.

Italy was the first country to prosecute US intelligence agents for roles in the rendition programme.

De Sousa, who has dual US-Portuguese citizenship, was detained on an international warrant at Lisbon airport in October 2015 while heading to India to visit her mother. She has said she had been living in Portugal and intended to settle there.

She repeatedly fought her extradition and lost several appeals after her arrest. She had argued she was never officially informed of the Italian court conviction and could not use confidential US government information to defend herself.


Press Association

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