Michael Ratner sums up the news that 22 CIA agents were convicted by an Italian court yesterday for the 2003 kidnapping of an Islamic cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, off the street in Italy and his “rendition” to Egypt to be tortured (from the Community Blogs):
You may recall the case. The CIA was accused of a 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, from the streets of Milan, Italy. He was rendered to Egypt where he was tortured. A courageous Italian prosecutor, Armando Spataro, had been pursuing the case since that time over the objections of the Italian government. Luckily in Italy the prosecutors are independent of the political branches and Spataro, despite many attempted roadblocks, went ahead. Now the court has come down with convictions and jail sentences. Robert Seldon Lady, former CIA station chief in Milan got 8 years and 22 other Americans got 5 years. Utterly remarkable! The only problem is none of the defendants showed up for trial and the Italy was unwilling to ask for their extradition.
Despite this, the convictions are really earth shattering news although the New York Times asserts they will have “little practical effect.” Just ask the 23 convicted operatives if they agree with that sentiment. They are considered fugitives in 25 countries of the European Schengen area and subject to arrest. Upon arrest they will be sent to Italy to serve out their jail sentences. Already one of those convicted is suing the United States claiming she should have had received diplomatic immunity.(See list of 24 below.) And I wonder what those agents think about Stephen R. Kappes, who at the time of the kidnapping was the assistant director of the CIA’s clandestine branch and is said to have planned the rendition? He was not a defendant, having not been in Italy, but is currently Obama’s second ranking CIA official. So he is off the hook, at least for the moment, and can still enjoy Rome and Paris. So no wonder a U.S. spokesmen said the administration was “disappointed” in the verdicts.
It’s really a sad state of affairs when people can be kidnapped and held without charge, without trial, for an indefinite period of time—tortured—and then released without explanation or apology, all on trumped-up “suspected terrorism” charges that don’t stand up to scrutiny.
The ACLU produced a video that tells the story of some of these men.
The men in this video were held at Guantánamo for years without charge and denied any meaningful opportunity to challenge the legality of their detention. But now they are finally free. This is their story.
Watch it now: