Italian court sentences absent Egyptian cleric on terrorism charges
An Egyptian kidnapped as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme was convicted by an Italian court yesterday of decade-old terror charges and sentenced to six years in prison.
Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was convicted in absentia in a closed-door trial. The cleric has been in Egypt since resurfacing after his 2003 abduction, and is unlikely to be returned to Italy to serve the sentence.
Nasr's lawyer, Carmelo Scambia, said he denies being associated with terrorism in any way.
"It's a political trial, if you will, an ideological trial against someone who professes a political faith," Scambia said.
Italian authorities had been investigating Nasr as a terror suspect for more than a year when he was abducted from a Milan street and transferred to Egypt via Germany as part of the CIA's programme of moving terror suspects to third countries that permitted torture.
Nasr claims he was tortured in Egypt. He is no longer jailed, but his Italian lawyer says he is not free to travel or leave the country.
Twenty-six Americans, mostly CIA agents, were convicted of kidnapping and handed sentences ranging from five to nine years in the only trial anywhere involving the rendition scheme. All were tried in absentia and none served any prison time.
Prosecutors reactivated the dormant case against Nasr in May to complete the proceedings interrupted by the kidnapping. Prosecutor Maurizio Romanelli, who had sought a sentence of six years and eight months, declined to comment on the verdict.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Nasr in 2005, after he had resurfaced in Egypt and while the case against his kidnappers was being made.
Nasr was found guilty of criminal association with the goal of terrorism and aiding illegal emigration with the goal of terrorism, for allegedly helping organise false documents to help bring recruits to Islamic terror camps.
Prosecutors said Egypt did not respond to requests to question him or put on trial in Italy.