Italy's highest court has thrown out charges against U.S. and Italian intelligence agents accused of kidnapping an Egyptian Islamist cleric in Milan in 2003.

The court Wednesday backed the Italian government's argument that prosecutors illegally used classified intelligence information as evidence.

Prosecutors contended the state was using the secrecy argument to obstruct justice.

The case involves 26 Americans - most of them believed to be Central Intelligence Agency operatives - and Italian defendants.

They include the former head of Italy's military intelligence agency, Nicolo Pollari.

The defendants are accused of kidnapping Egyptian imam Abu Omar from Milan and flying him to Egypt where he says he was tortured in prison.

The Americans were being tried in absentia. The Italian government has not asked for their extradition, and the CIA has refused comment on the case.

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