14 February 2013, 14:54

Italy convicting CIA agents over rendition cases

Italy convicting CIA agents over rendition cases
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The former head of the Italian intelligence services, Nicolo Pollari, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail by a Milan court. He was convicted of involvement in the kidnapping and rendition of an Egyptian cleric in 2003 by the CIA. Italian courts have already convicted 22 CIA agents over the same case. The abducted Egyptian cleric has said he was flown to Egypt and tortured.

Italy is the first country to bring to court cases involving so-called “extraordinary rendition”. The trials have been running since 2007. Nicolo Pollari’s defense lawyer has said he’s not able to properly defend either Pollari or his deputy Marco Mancini who was sentenced to 9 years in prison yesterday. Pollari has insisted that he knew nothing about the kidnapping, but that the documents proving that he was not involved are classified under state secrecy laws. Tina, an Italian writer, says that this defense has broader significance.

“If he was aware of that, that could also raise the question of how much even the government at the time knew about that, because there’s not so much the security services can do without the authorization or even the knowledge of the government itself.”

The case also underlines the extent of collusion between the Italian and American governments in the wake of 9/11. Italy’s courts have already convicted in absentia 22 CIA agents over the same case. It also points to the frequency with which rendition cases were taking place during this era. Dr. James Boyce, Senior Research Fellow at King’s College, has written extensively about extraordinary rendition cases.

“I think what is surprising is that these cases are seeing the light of day quite often, when you see national security situations like this. They’re conducted very much behind the closed doors or sometimes even brushed into the carpet, in general. What’s fascinating is, I think, the fact that we’re seeing a successive numbers of European governments lining up in the last couple of years to criticize the rendition program as was operated by George W, Bush’s administration, and yet a number of them are being actually quite complicit in that. And so, one has to recognize that there’s a degree of hypocrisy at stake here.”

Though there’s been much publicity about rendition cases in the past, they don’t seem to be taking place as frequently now or are they?

“I think there’s no doubt about it – rendition will remain a tool in the U.S. arsenal, as long as it believes it is beneficial to do so. The U.S. is not signed up to the International Criminal Court, for example, and this is one of the main reasons. It doesn’t want its citizens acting overseas in a covert fashion to be brought to justice by foreign nationals.”

All the convicted CIA agents are living in the U.S.A. and are unlikely to serve their sentences. Initially, the verdicts have been greeted with surprise, according to Tina.

“There’s great surprise about the sentence, many didn’t actually expect that, especially because the trial against both Pollari and Mancini wasn’t allowed to go ahead because of the secrecy law aspect, that was raised by previous government. Actually there was somehow maybe an expectation that even in this case, in the second appealed court, the case would be dropped, especially because the government raised again that conflict.”

Tuesday’s hearing in Milan’s Court of Appeals also saw 6-year sentences handed to three other agents. All five are expected to appeal.

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