Italian Intelligence Officer Nabbed For Illegal Monitoring

An Italian intelligence officer involved in the case of the alleged CIA kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan was arrested Tuesday in connection with a separate investigation into illegal wiretapping and illicit data gathering, lawyers said.

Marco Mancini, a former deputy head of Italy's SISMI military intelligence agency, was arrested as part of a probe involving the former security chief at Telecom Italia SpA, Italy's largest telephone company, the lawyers said.

Mancini was being held in the northern city of Pavia. His lawyer, Luigi Panella, called his arrest "completely unjustified."

Telecom Italia has denied any involvement in the case.

Mancini was arrested earlier this year during the investigation into the 2003 disappearance of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian cleric and terrorist suspect also known as Abu Omar.

Milan prosecutors are seeking to indict 26 Americans and several Italian secret service officials on kidnapping charges, including Mancini and his former boss, ex-SISMI chief Nicolo Pollari.

During his imprisonment this summer, Mancini was said by his lawyers to be collaborating with prosecutors in implicating Pollari.

Prosecutors have identified all but one of the Americans as CIA agents and the 26th as a U.S. Air Force officer stationed at the time at Aviano air base near Venice.

Nasr allegedly was abducted from a Milan street in February 2003. Prosecutors say he was flown out of Italy from Aviano and taken via Germany to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

The operation was believed to be part of an alleged CIA "extraordinary rendition" program in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries where some allegedly were tortured.

A hearing to hear arguments on the indictment requests has been set for Jan. 9.