Italy denies helping US abduct cleric

One week ago a judge in Milan signed warrants for the arrest of 13 of the agents, which has thrown covert CIA activities outside the US under the spotlight and drawn attention to the increasingly common practice of so-called "extraordinary rendition", by which the US seizes terror suspects and removes them to countries known for their use of torture.

Carlo Giovanardi, the minister for parliamentary relations, told parliament that the abduction of the Milan-based imam, Abu Omar, "was never brought to the attention of the executive or of the national institutions" – a common euphemism in Italy for the secret services. He said that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had summoned the American ambassador Mel Sembler to explain the incident when the latter returns to Rome, probably today.

Abu Omar, whose real name is Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, was grabbed by a group of people while walking towards his mosque in Milan. An Egyptian woman testified that she saw him forced into the back of a van and driven away. Last year, the cleric telephoned his family from Egypt to say he had been tortured with electric shocks. It is believed he is still in prison in Egypt.

Yesterday, The Washington Post claimed that Italian secret services had prior knowledge of the abduction and had approved it.

"Before a CIA paramilitary team was deployed to snatch a radical Islamic cleric off the streets of Milan ... the CIA station chief in Rome briefed and sought approval from his counterpart in Italy, according to three CIA veterans with knowledge of the operation," the paper said. The report went on: "Both the CIA and the Italian service agreed beforehand that if the unusual operation was to become public, as it has, neither side would confirm its involvement." According to the Post, only a tiny number of people had been told about the action, and they did not include magistrates or police in Milan.

In the Italian senate yesterday, a senator with the Green party, Tana de Zulueta, challenged Mr Giovanardi to refute the Washington Post report. He responded: "It's false."

The indictment of the CIA agents is the first time America's right to forcibly remove people from the countries in which they are legally resident and whisk them off to be tortured has been challenged in the courts of an allied country.

Mr Giovanardi's denial of prior knowledge got a contemptuous reaction from Luigi Malabarba, leader of Rifondazione Comunista in the senate and a member of the parliamentary committee on the secret services. "The [Italian] political authorities and the police were informed by the CIA and the US embassy in Rome," he said, "and they agreed to the abduction of Abu Omar because they share the modality of prosecuting the preventive war against terrorism as defined by the Bush administration. They obviously cannot admit that because it violates the constitution, Italian law and international treaties. Giovanardi is a liar."

The Washington Post report said it was unclear how high in the Italian intelligence service the information was shared or whether the office of Mr Berlusconi was aware.

Italian commentators made much of the fact that it was a junior minister, Mr Giovanardi, who was called on to make the statement rather than Mr Berlusconi himself, or one of his senior ministers.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

Extras
indybest
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: New Business Sales Manager - Talent Management - £60,000 OTE

£35000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A true market leader in ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Consultant - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Centre - Attraction Manager

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: For the first time in its 1,000...

Recruitment Genius: Air Conditioning Service and / or Installation Engineers

£27400 - £33500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time air conditioning, ven...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?