In the first verdict of its kind, an Italian court has convicted 23 Americans of kidnapping a Muslim cleric.It was a symbolic condemnation of the CIA practice of “extraordinary rendition” used by the Bush administration during its war on terror – and which America has yet to recognise – took place in Italy.
The court heard how Egyptian-born Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr was snatched off the streets of Milan in 2003 and taken to Egypt, where he was tortured and held without charge until 2007.The Americans were found guilty in absentia, as the US refused to extradite them. The judge issued an eight year sentence for a former CIA chief in Milan. The other US operatives were given five year sentences.
Armando Spataro, prosecuting said: “It may be possible that a request be put through the American justice secretary to pursue the people at large who were condemned, but we will have to see.”
Charges were dropped against three Americans because of their diplomatic immunity, and five Italians, including the head of military intelligence, all protected by Italy’s Official Secrets Act.
“We are clearly disappointed by the court’s ruling. We had as you know, asserted jurisdiction according to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Several human rights groups have hailed the court for its persistence, calling the ruling “historic”.