(Reuters) - A Milan judge on Friday ordered 26 Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, to stand trial with Italian spies on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.
Following are details of the case, which will be the first criminal trial over “renditions”, one of the most controversial aspects of U.S. President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism.
WHO ARE THE SUSPECTS?
Americans include former CIA station chiefs in Rome and Milan, Jeff Castelli and Robert Lady, and head of security at the U.S. air base in Aviano in northern Italy.
Prosecutors also want to try Italy’s former spy chief Nicolo Pollari and members of the SISMI military intelligence agency.
WHAT ARE THE ACCUSATIONS?
That a CIA-led team grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a Muslim cleric also known as Abu Omar, in Milan on February 17 2003, flew him via Germany to Egypt, where Nasr says he was tortured with electric shocks, beatings, rape threats and genital abuse.
Nasr was released from jail in Egypt on Sunday.
WHAT DO THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY SAY?
Washington has not responded to the charges. It acknowledges secret transfers of terrorism suspects to third countries, but denies torture or sanctioning torture by third parties.
Italy’s then premier Silvio Berlusconi denies knowledge of the operation. Successor Romano Prodi has kept classified documents Pollari says would prove his innocence. Government says magistrates broke secrecy rules and have not forwarded extradition request.
WHAT DO THE SUSPECTS SAY?
Italian policeman Luciano Pironi admits stopping Nasr on a Milan street so CIA could grab him; but says CIA told him goal was to recruit Nasr and operation was approved by Rome and United States. Pironi made a plea bargain accepting a 21-month jail term.
Pollari says SISMI did nothing wrong but has not cooperated with the court, saying evidence covered by state secrets act.
One of his deputies, Marco Mancini, says CIA did ask SISMI to help kidnap Nasr, but SISMI refused because it was illegal. He says some superficial surveillance was carried out on Nasr.
Rome will be under more pressure to forward prosecutors’ request to Washington for extradition of Americans, who already face EU arrest warrants. Washington not expected to surrender them, so only Italian suspects likely to appear in court.
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