Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Italy seeks dismissal of criminal case against spies over Bush rendition program

It certainly looks as if lawyers representing Italy will succeed in getting the criminal prosecution against 33 U.S. and Italian undercover operatives thrown out of Rome's Constitutional Court and avoid another international embarassment over the former Bush administration's war on terror. The 33 spies -- 26 Americans and 7 Italians, are accused of kidnapping a Muslim imam from Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where he claims he was tortured. The Americans, many or all of whom are reported to be CIA agents, are being tried in absentia. The government in Rome contends prosecutors broke Italian law while building their case against the 33 operatives by using wiretaps and questioning them about classified matters, and wants the evidence suppressed. "If the government's position is upheld by the Constitutional Court, certain evidence will become impossible to use," Italy's attorney Ignazio Francesco Caramazza, who wants the trial stopped, told the Reuters international news service before the start of this week's closed-door hearings. An attorney for the prosecutors, Alessandro Pace, contends no laws were broken in the gathering of evidence. The trial, which is due to start in a lower court, has been held pending the outcome of this appeal. Human rights groups accuse the United States and some of its allies of breaking international law by using agents to capture suspects in other countries, Reuters said, a practice called "rendition." But the United States defends rendition as an important anti-terrorism tool and denies torture allegations, Reuters said, including those raised by the Milan man, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. Nasr claims he was beaten and shocked in custody before being released in 2007. He still faces allegations of terrorist activity in Italy.

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