Sunday, May 18, 2008
Rendition on Trial
The trial of 26 Americans and several former top Italian intelligence officials for the 2003 extraordinary rendition (kidnapping and torture) of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (aka Abu Omar) has finally opened in Milan. As you may recall, in 2003, American intelligence officers grabbed Nasr off the street in Milan and rushed him off to Egypt where, as his wife testified on Wednesday, he was tortured in an attempt to gain information about his possible terrorist connections. The Bush administration has of course refused to extradite the Americans responsible for the rendition (25 CIA agents and 1 Air Force colonel), and the Italian government has done its share of stalling to avoid trial, claiming that prosecutors exercised too much zeal in intercepting the CIA agents' phone calls, for example. Why would they do so? After all, this particular rendition created fury among many in Italian law enforcement by snatching Nasr out from under surveillance that had them on the brink of obtaining much more valuable (and reliable) information about Muslim groups in Italy than Nasr's alleged torture in Egypt could provide. Politics as usual: Silvio Berlusconi (left) was Prime Minister when the rendition took place and his recent reelection means keeping a lid on any evidence of collusion with the Americans that might harm his new government. One of the Italian defendants, Nicolò Pollari (former director of the military intelligence agency) claims that both Berlusconi and former Prime Minister Romano Prodi have information that would prove he at the very least knew nothing of the kidnapping, and may have actually opposed it. Meanwhile, defense lawyers tried to challenge Nasr's wife's reliability as a witness, claiming that her veil indicates anti-American bias!