Italy asks court to drop kidnapping charges in CIA rendition case on security grounds

[JURIST] The Italian government on Tuesday asked the country's Constitutional Court [official website] to dismiss kidnapping charges against US and Italian intelligence officers, arguing that allowing the case to go forward would harm the country's national security interests. The case involves 26 Americans being tried in absentia and five former Italian intelligence officials charged in the 2003 abduction and rendition [JURIST news archive] of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr [JURIST news archive]. The Constitutional Court is now hearing the case [ANSA report] in closed sessions after suspending the case [JURIST report] for three months in order to allow the government and prosecutors to prepare arguments on the national security issues. Both Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his predecessor, former Prime Minister Romano Prodi [BBC profile], have warned that certain evidence collected by the prosecution could jeopardize future collaboration between Italian and US spy services. Prosecutor Armando Spataro has accused Berlusconi, ex-Italian military intelligence agency chief Niccolo Pollari, and others of inflating security arguments to obstruct justice. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on whether the case can go forward later this week.

Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was seized on the streets of Milan by CIA agents with the help of Italian operatives, then allegedly transferred to Egypt and tortured by Egypt's State Security Intelligence before being released [JURIST reports] in February 2007. Defense lawyers for Pollari have said they need Italian agents' testimony and classified government documents to assert their defense that Pollari was not involved in the kidnapping. Last May, Magi ruled that Berlusconi can be called to testify [JURIST report].



 

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