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Former CIA chief in Italy sentenced to 7 years

01/02/2013

Fellow operatives get six years in Muslim cleric snatch case

Former CIA chief in Italy sentenced to 7 years

Rome, February 1 - Milan's Court of Appeal on Friday sentenced the CIA's former Italy chief, Jeff Castelli, to seven years in prison for involvement in the abduction of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr from the city in 2003, while a separate court in Perugia acquitted the former head of Italian secret services for illegal spying charges in the case. Castelli and fellow CIA operatives Betnie Medero and Ralph Russomando were acquitted on the grounds of diplomatic immunity in a 2009 trial that led to 23 US officials being convicted. The other two agents were sentenced to six years in prison on Friday. None of the CIA operatives have ever appeared in court here. The case was the first judicial examination of extraordinary rendition, one of the controversial practices of America's war on terror, first authorised by Bill Clinton, widely used under George W. Bush, and extended by Obama on the condition that torture was stopped. Also on Friday, Italy's former SISMI secret service chief Nicolo' Pollari was acquitted for alleged breach of protocol and illegally obtaining files in the case. At a preliminary hearing in Perugia, former official Pio Pompa was also acquitted of the charges but was then indicted on separate charges of unauthorized espionage, to be tried October 17. The two were accused of obtaining a confidential disc with unauthorized files on magistrates, officials and journalists which pertained to the extraordinary rendition of the Muslim cleric. The former head of SISMI said through his lawyer that he was "relieved, despite the fact that a State-secrecy injunction prevented him from fully defending himself". Pollari and his ex-No.2 Marco Mancini are awaiting a retrial in the Milan Court of Appeals on separate charges in the case. The two have repeatedly been acquitted on appeal in the past because of the State-secrecy injunction. In a separate case, Pollari faces corruption charges in an alleged State-property scam. Nasr, an Islamist wanted in Italy on suspicion of recruiting jihadi fighters, disappeared from a Milan street on February 17, 2003 and emerged from an Egyptian prison four years later claiming he had been tortured. The cleric, who is also known as Abu Omar, has not attended the trials. Prosecutors said he was snatched by a team of CIA operatives with SISMI's help and taken to a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany, en route to Cairo. (Photo: Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr)