Italian Prosecutors May Arrest 26 Americans for Alleged CIA Kidnapping of Egyptian Cleric

Prosecutors have completed their investigation into the alleged CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Italy and were preparing to ask that more than two dozen Americans and several Italian intelligence officials be ordered to stand trial, lawyers said Saturday.

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, a terrorism suspect also known as Abu Omar, was allegedly kidnapped from a Milan street in February 2003 as part of an alleged CIA program in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries and sometimes subjected to torture.

Prosecutors say the operation was conducted by CIA agents with assistance from Italian agents, and have called it a breach of Italian sovereignty that compromised their own anti-terrorism efforts. They are seeking the arrest of 26 Americans, all but one suspected to be CIA agents.


With the investigation complete, prosecutors must give the defense 20 days to examine their case before they can officially ask a court to try the suspects, said defense lawyer Luigi Panella, who represents Marco Mancini, an Italian intelligence officer charged with kidnapping.

"My reaction is one of surprise. I was expecting the case to be archived, since there is no proof that Mancini and (Italian intelligence) kidnapped Abu Omar," Panella said. "In fact, I think we're at risk of trying those who did not want to kidnap Abu Omar."

He declined to elaborate, saying only that prosecutors' recent questioning of an official with the Carabinieri paramilitary police accused of playing a role in the kidnapping should have led prosecutors to follow new leads, not complete their investigation.

Prosecutors say Nasr was taken by the CIA to the joint U.S.-Italian Aviano air base, flown to Germany and then to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. Prosecutors and a lawyer for Nasr say he is being held in a Cairo prison.

Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in power at the time of the kidnapping, always maintained that his government and Italian secret services were not informed about the operation and had not taken part in it.

However, prosecutors say top officials at SISMI — including the agency's director, Nicolo Pollari — collaborated with the Americans to abduct Nasr.