Ex-CIA Milan chief detained in Panama

Robert Seldon Lady was detained after Costa Rica sent him back to Panama

A former CIA base chief in Italy who was convicted in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect from a street in Milan has been detained in Panama, the Italian justice ministry said.

An Italian official familiar with Italy's investigation and prosecution of Robert Seldon Lady said the former CIA official entered Panama, traveled to Costa Rica, and that officials there then sent him back to Panama where he was detained. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because only Italy's justice ministry was publicly discussing the case.

In Panama City, Panamanian Security Minister Jose Raul Molino told The Associated Press that he was unaware of Lady's detention, and the press office of the National Police — which works with Interpol, the international police agency — said it had no information about the case.

The CIA said it had no immediate comment about its former employee.

Lady was sentenced by an Italian appeals court in Milan earlier this year in the extraordinary rendition case to nine years in prison after being tried in absentia in Italy for the kidnapping of the Muslim cleric. The trials of Lady, 59, now retired from the CIA, and two other Americans in the case brought the first convictions anywhere in the world against agents involved in the agency's extraordinary rendition program, a practice alleged to have led to torture.

The justice ministry said it didn't immediately have details on when or where in Panama the detention of Lady, who was born in Honduras, took place. Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, who reportedly signed the request for Lady's detention, was away on a visit to Lithuania.

Interpol had issued a request for Lady's arrest, reflecting Italy's determination to get him back.

Italy and Panama have no extradition treaty, Italian diplomats said, so being detained in Panama wouldn't necessarily result in Lady's return to Italy, which he left a few years after the abduction, early into the Italian investigation. However, Panama would still be free to send Lady to Italy if it wanted to, even without an extradition treaty.

The terror suspect, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was abducted in February 2003, transferred to U.S. military bases, first in Italy, then in Germany, before being flown to Egypt.

The cleric alleged he was tortured in Egypt. He was later released.

The previous Italian government had said that extradition could only be sought for Lady, since it can only be requested for people who have been sentenced to more than four years in prison.

A 2006 amnesty in Italy shaves three years off all sentences meted out by Italian courts, meaning if Lady is brought back to Italy, he would face six years in prison.

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