An Italian judge Friday indicted 26 Americans and five Italians for their role in the abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect from Milan in 2003. The decision means that Italy will be the site of the first criminal trial on the CIA's controversial program of "extraordinary renditions." Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.
The trial is scheduled to open June 8. A total of 26 Americans, all but one, believed to be CIA agents, and five Italian secret service officials will have to answer to charges of kidnapping Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from the streets of Milan in February 2003.
Italian prosecutors charge that the CIA carried out the illegal operation with the knowledge and assistance of the Italian secret services. They say the alleged kidnapping operation was a breach of Italian sovereignty that compromised Italy's own anti-terrorism efforts.
Among those indicted is a former head of the Italian secret services, Nicolo Pollari, as well as the former CIA station chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, and the former CIA station chief in Rome, Jeff Castelli.
While the Italians should be appearing in court, the Americans are most likely going to be tried in absentia. Prosecutors have been pushing for the Italian government to send an extradition request to the United States, but so far this has not happened.
But before the trial opens, Italy's Constitutional Court could suspend proceedings. It has been asked by the government to rule on whether prosecutors overstepped their powers by ordering wiretaps of Italian agents' phone calls.
Prosecutor Armando Spataro said the investigations did not violate state secrets. He added that it could not be claimed that illegal wiretaps were carried out, because the law does not ban these in a police investigation.
Four years ago, the Egyptian imam was on his way from home to the mosque in Milan, when he was pushed into a van, driven to the U.S. airbase of Aviano in northern Italy from where he was flown first to Germany and then to Egypt. In Cairo, he says, he was questioned and tortured with electric shocks and other forms of abuse.
Nasr was released this week from prison in Cairo after four years. His lawyer said an Egyptian court found there was no reason for his detention to continue. He is now at his family home in Alexandria, but he has said he wants to return to Italy, where years ago he was granted political asylum and a permit to stay.
He has also said he wants to sue former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as well as U.S. intelligence agencies for millions of dollars worth of damages.
It is unclear whether Egyptian authorities will allow Nasr to leave the country. His wife has expressed fear that he will only be re-arrested as soon as he arrives in Italy, where was under investigation for terrorism-related activities at the time of his abduction. Milan prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest more than two years after he disappeared, while he was in custody in Egypt.