Italy's Supreme Court has confirmed the convictions of dozens of US and Italian officials who were tried, in Milan in 2009, for the abduction and rendition of Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric, shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The victim was kidnapped in the street in broad daylight, bundled into a van, taken to Aviano airforce base where he was brutalised, then rendered to Egypt where he was tortured in various disgusting ways.
Twenty-three US officials were convicted, the most high-profile being
former CIA officers Robert Seldon Lady and Sabrina de Sousa, as well as
Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Romano.
Lady was given the heaviest sentence of nine years imprisonment, while de Sousa, Romano,
and the other Americans—Monica Adler, Gregory Asherleigh, Lorenza
Carrera, Drew Channing, John Duffin, Vincent Faldo, Raymond Harbaough,
James Harbison, Ben Amar Harty, Cynthia Logan, George Purvis, Pilar
Rueda, Joseph Sofin,
Michalis Vasiluou, Eliana Castaldo, Victor Castellano, John Gurley,
Brenda Ibanez, Anne Lidia Jenkins, and James Kirkland—got seven years. The agents' terms were lengthened from
5-8 years to 7-9 years in December 2010.
The court found three US officials not guilty because they had
diplomatic immunity: the CIA’s former Rome station chief Jeff
Castelli ( the abduction and rendition was his “brainchild”) the
former first secretary at the US embassy in Rome Ralph Russomando, and
former second secretary Betnie Medero.
Some agents of the Italian military intelligence service SISMI were not
convicted. The officials, including the former head of SISMI Nicolo Pollari, had evidence against them suppressed on the grounds of state secrecy. Their retrial was ordered. More junior officers had their convictions confirmed.
The CIA agents were tried in contumacia. Their defence lawyers argued that they were not guilty as they were only obeying orders.
Should they be found in Europe again they will be arrested under European Arrest Warrants that have been issued for them all. The convicted have been ordered to pay over a million euros of damages to the victim of the extraordinary rendition. Properties in Italy of those convicted have been ordered to be confiscated.