Monday, February 4, 2013

Italy: Acquittals of Former CIA Station Chief, Two Other Americans Vacated by Appellate Court

According to The Associated Press, a Milan appellate court on Friday (February 1) vacated acquittals for former CIA station chief in Rome, Jeffrey Castelli and two other Americans, Betnie Medero and Ralph Russomando, and instead convicted them in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect from a Milan street as part of the CIA's rendition program.

The decision means that all 26 Americans tried in absentia for the abduction now have been found guilty.

The various trials, which have dragged on for a number of years, brought the first convictions anywhere in the world against CIA agents involved in a practice alleged to have led to torture.

On Friday, the court sentenced former Castelli to seven years, and handed sentences of six years each to Medero and Russomando.

None of the Americans have ever been in Italian custody or have ever appeared in court, but they risk arrest if they travel anywhere in the EU, although a number of the names listed on the official docket are believed to be aliases.

COMMENT: Italy's highest court last year upheld the convictions of 23 other Americans in absentia in the abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on Feb. 17, 2003. 

Nasr was transferred to US military bases in Italy, then Germany, before being flown to Egypt, where he alleges he was tortured. He has since been released.

Those convicted in the original trial included the former Milan CIA station chief, Robert Seldon Lady, whose original seven-year sentence was raised to nine years by Italy's high court. The other 22 Americans, all but one identified by prosecutors as CIA agents, also saw their sentences stiffened on the final appeal, from five to seven years.

Needless to say, the trials of the Americans has strained US-Italian relations considerably and no doubt adversely affected intelligence liaison between the two nations.