News / USA

Ex-CIA Official Wanted in Italy Returns to US

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The U.S. State Department says the former CIA Milan chief convicted in Italy of kidnapping an Egyptian terror suspect is headed back to the U.S. after he was detained in Panama this week.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Friday that she understood Robert Seldon Lady was either en route or back in the United States. She would not give further details.

The Associated Press quotes an unnamed senior U.S. administration official as saying Panamanian immigration officials "expelled" Lady after he was detained on Thursday.

Lady was one of 23 CIA agents convicted in absentia in 2009 for the 2003 abduction of radical cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, better known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street.

Panama detained Lady, who faces a nine-year prison term in Italy, after he tried to cross the border into Costa Rica. It is unclear how U.S. authorities will handle Lady and Italy's request for his extradition.

After his abduction, the cleric, Abu Omar, was eventually transferred to Egypt, where he was interrogated and allegedly tortured to gain information on his suspected links to terrorist organizations. He was released from Egyptian detention in 2007 without having been charged.

The trials of Lady, now retired from the CIA, and two other U.S. agents were the first convictions of U.S. intelligence operatives who had been involved in a procedure known as "extraordinary rendition." Under the procedure, U.S. agents secretly detained terrorism suspects abroad and transferred them to third countries for intensive interrogation.

Three other Americans indicted in the case were granted diplomatic immunity and acquitted in 2009.  But earlier this year, a Milan court vacated the acquittals, convicted them in absentia and then sentenced two of them to six-year prison terms and the third to a seven-year term.

An Italian court found Italy's secret services also were complicit in the rendition, and a former Italian intelligence chief was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this year.   former deputy received a nine-year sentence, and three other officials got six years each.  

Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper reports the Italian government authorized an international arrest warrant for Lady in December.  But it says warrants were not issued for other CIA operatives convicted in the case because their prison sentences did not meet the minimum for an extradition request.

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