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Italian judge orders arrest of CIA agents

By Alan Maass | July 8, 2005 | Page 2

AN ITALIAN judge has issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents accused of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric on Italian soil two years ago. The radical Muslim religious leader, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, was grabbed off the sidewalk in the city of Milan as he walked to his mosque for noon prayers in February 2003.

Nasr then apparently became the victim of the CIA's "rendition" program--of sending "terrorism" suspects to U.S.-allied countries where the use of torture during interrogations isn't banned.

Nasr's family says he was taken to an Egyptian prison after his kidnapping. They say he emerged briefly from jail in April 2004 and called family and friends in Italy to say that he had been tortured with electrocution--so badly, he told his wife, that he lost hearing in one ear. Shortly after making these calls, Nasr was arrested again by Egyptian police--and he hasn't been heard from since.

Italian investigators say they have been able to track down the identities of CIA personnel who organized and carried out Nasr's abduction two years ago. According to witnesses, Nasr was stopped on the sidewalk, sprayed in the face with chemicals and then forced into a van that sped away.

Italian authorities say that the CIA team brought Nasr to the American military base at Aviano in northern Italy, where he was put on board an aircraft and taken to Egypt. All 13 are charged with criminal kidnapping, but Italian authorities believe they have been transferred out of the country.

According to a report in the New York Times, the U.S. made little effort to cover its tracks, using insecure cell phones for communication and leaving them on for hours at a time. This allowed Italian investigators to trace nearly every step the U.S. spies made while they were in Milan.

The arrest warrants threaten to shine a spotlight on Washington's shadowy program of "renditioning" terrorism suspects to be tortured in the jails of U.S. allies. According to the Times, U.S. authorities have had more than 100 people transferred to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other countries.

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