Italy: Extraordinary renditions: Military intelligence officials arrested for collusion in Abu Omar kidnapping (1)

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On 4 June 2006, the director of operations (first division) of Italy's SISMI (military secret service), Marco Mancini, was arrested in the province of Ravenna (in Romagna) on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping of the Egyptian national Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (aka Abu Omar) on 17 February 2003. Over a year later, in May 2004, Abu Omar told a friend during a telephone call that he had been kidnapped in Milan, beaten in the US airbase in Aviano (in north-east Italy), before being transported to Ramstein US airbase in Germany and subsequently transferred to an Egyptian prison, where he was tortured. Another official (responsible for SISMI's centres in northern Italy) was also arrested, whereas four other US citizens (three from the CIA and another from the armed forces who has served in Aviano) whose detention was sought are now fugitives. Investigating magistrates have ordered preventative custody in prison for one of the SISMI officials and house arrest for the other. One of the arrest warrants was issued for Jeff Castelli, who was the head of the CIA in Italy at the time of the abduction. This "extraordinary rendition" had already resulted in investigating magistrate Armando Spataro issuing 22 arrest warrants against CIA agents in December 2005, amid growing evidence of involvement by Italian security service personnel in the operation. A carabiniere from the antiterrorist section of the ROS (special operations unit) in Milan admitted to judges that he had played a part in the kidnapping (see Statewatch news online, May 2006). The head of SISMI, Nicolò Pollari, admitted to the EP committee investigating renditions and to the COPACO (Italian parliamentary committee for the control of secret services) that he had received requests to cooperate in kidnappings in the context of antiterrorist operations and offers to be illegally handed over fugitives sought by Italy, both of which Pollari claimed he rejected.

Francesco Cossiga, a former president, prime minister and interior minister and now a senator-for-life, was critical of the operation, claiming that magistrates can expect a message of congratulations from Osama bin Laden, thanking them for aiding the Islamic Jihad, and highlighting that the SISMI and carabinieri have been responsible for numerous "brilliant operations" to combat terrorism.

Repubblica, 5.7.2006; Corriere della Sera, 5.7.2006; L'Espresso, 18.5.2006; Repubblica website, agency reporting statement from investigating magistrates,

"Collusion by Italian personnel in CIA kidnapping", Statewatch news online May 2006,

See also, the Statewatch Observatory on Renditions:

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