Ex-CIA Agent Must Face Rendition Conviction In Italy

A Portuguese court ruled Friday that an ex-CIA agent must face rendition to Italy, where she has been convicted for her role in kidnapping an Egyptian cleric.

Sabrina De Sousa, a joint U.S.-Portuguese citizen, was one of 26 people – mostly CIA officials, plus an Air Force colonel – convicted in absentia on charges of snatching Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street in 2003 and taking him to Egypt for questioning.

Abu Omar was kidnapped under the U.S. “extraordinary rendition” program, started after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. According to his wife and Italian prosecutors, the cleric was beaten and given electric shocks to his genitals.

Abu Omar

Abu Omar

De Sousa was arrested in Portugal last October at the request of Italian prosecutors, who want her to serve a six-year sentence. She has always maintained she did not take part in the actual rendition, merely working as an interpreter for the CIA “snatch” team that did the actual kidnapping.

In an October 2015 interview with The Washington Post, De Sousa said that she flew in late April, where she and her husband spend part of the year. She knew she could be arrested anywhere in Europe and extradited to Italy. But she figured that if she were arrested, the urgency of her case might prompt U.S. and Italian authorities to grant her clemency and reinvestigate the kidnapping.

“I didn’t want to sneak into the country. I’ve got nothing to hide. This thing needs to be resolved,” she said. “This has gone on for 10 years. It’s impacted my life. I’ve got relatives in Europe, and I don’t see any reason to give that up. The rendition should have never taken place, and we were all thrown under the bus for it.”

De Sousa, who left the CIA in early 2009, sued the agency and the Justice Department later that year, demanding that she receive diplomatic immunity against the Italian charges. A federal judge dismissed her case but lamented that De Sousa’s predicament sends a “potentially demoralizing” message to other Foreign Service officers stationed abroad.

No Americans have served prison time for the controversial abduction because they had already left Italy by the time of their convictions in 2009, rulings upheld by Italy’s highest court in 2012. (One American, Col. Joseph L. Romano III, a retired Air Force commander, was pardoned in 2013.)

The regional court of Lisbon said De Sousa would only be sent to Italy to be informed of her sentence, and would then return to Portugal to serve it.

De Sousa’s lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, told Reuters that they would appeal the decision to Portugal’s supreme court.

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