Friday, June 24, 2005

THE NEW YORK TIMES reports today that the Italian government has called for the arrest of 13 C.I.A. agents who kidnapped Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, aka Abu Omar, from a Milan street while he was walking from his home to religious services at a nearby mosque. Nasr, an Egyptian who lives in Italy, was taken to Aviano, a military base north of Venice, flown first to a U.S. military base in Germany, and then transported to Cairo and handed over to local authorities, who detained him, interrogated him, and reportedly tortured him by subjecting him to electric shocks and by hanging him upside down in extreme temperatures with loud music, or other types of noise, playing. As a result of the prolonged exposure to very loud noise, Omar's hearing was damaged.

Aside from the legal issues surrounding the abduction of a foreign national from one sovereign nation to be brought to another country for torturing, Nasr was the focus of an anti-terrorism investigation in Italy; his rendition to Egypt disrupted and damaged that investigation.

Nasr was believed to have fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia and prosecutors were seeking evidence against him before his disappearance, according to a report in La Repubblica newspaper, which cited intelligence officials.

Corriere said Italian police picked up details, including cover names, photos, credit card information and U.S. addresses the agents gave to five-star hotels in Milan around the time of Nasr's alleged abduction. It said investigators also found the prepaid highway passes the agents used for the journey from Milan to the air base.

The report said investigations showed the agents incurred $144,984 in hotel bills in Milan, and that two pairs of agents took holidays in northern Italy after delivering Nasr to Aviano.

Here's the kicker. The last line of the Times article quotes an Italian political analyst's fear that this investigation by the Italian government into the kidnapping, added to Italy's anger with the United States over the shooting attack on Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena's car, will make it harder for the United States to trust Italy.

Italian-U.S. relations were strained after American soldiers killed an Italian intelligence agent near Baghdad airport in March. He was escorting a kidnapped Italian journalist after he had secured her release from Iraqi captors.

Germano Dottori, a political analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies in Rome, said it is not unusual for intelligence agencies to have squabbles with allied countries but that he could not recall prosecutors directly involved in investigating or apprehending agents involved.

''At some point the Americans will begin to think they can't trust the Italians,'' Dottori said.
Hat tip to Nellie for alerting me to this news.

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