Italian Judge Convicts 23 in CIA Kidnap Case
Italian Judge Convicts 23 in CIA Kidnap Case

An Italian judge has convicted 23 Americans of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Milan in 2003.  The landmark case is the first involving the CIA's controversial "extraordinary rendition" program.

The Milan judge sentenced the CIA's Milan station chief at the time, Robert Seldon Lady to eight years in prison Wednesday and the 22 others to five years.  All of the Americans were tried in absentia, and are not in custody.

A U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the Obama administration is disappointed by the verdicts, but he offered no further comment because the judge in Milan did not file a written opinion.

The judge also gave three-year prison sentences to two Italians involved in the kidnapping.  Three other American defendants and five Italians, including Italy's former military intelligence chief, were acquitted.

"Extraordinary rendition," as practiced by the CIA, involved secretly transferring terror suspects between countries, placing them in locations where they could be intensively interrogated.

Prosecutors say the Egyptian cleric, suspected terrorist Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr (also known as Abu Omar), was abducted from a Milan street and sent to Egypt, where he was repeatedly tortured.  

The Italian government has denied any role in the renditions program, which was approved by the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Human-rights groups charge that renditions were the CIA's way of relocating prisoners extrajudicially to places where they faced torture during interrogation.  
Addressing such critics, President Bush said repeatedly that U.S. operatives did not transfer prisoners to countries known to practice torture. 

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.