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Italy defense official denies involvement in CIA rendition of Egyptian cleric

[JURIST] The government of Italy [JURIST news archive] was not involved in and did not know in advance of the CIA's alleged extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] of an Egyptian cleric [JURIST report], an Italian defense official told legislators Tuesday. The official, Giovanni Lorenzo Forceri, told Italian Senate committees investigating the alleged kidnapping that Italy has never "accepted or practiced" such techniques of fighting terrorism and that its Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) [official website; Wikipedia backgrounder] learned about the kidnapping only after it had occurred in 2003. The cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr [Wikipedia profile], also known as Abu Omar, was allegedly taken from a Milan street and then flown to Egypt, where he was tortured. Silvio Berlusconi, then Italy's prime minister, called the alleged kidnapping a violation of Italy's sovereignty [JURIST report], and Forceri said Tuesday that current Prime Minister Romano Prodi [official profile; BBC profile] supports the investigation.

Last Wednesday, police arrested two Italian intelligence officers [JURIST report], including a senior official, suspected of collaborating with CIA operatives in the alleged rendition. Arrest warrants have been issued for 26 Americans, most of them CIA agents, said to have been involved in the abduction. The Italian justice department has said it would not seek their extradition [JURIST report], but they may be prosecuted in absentia [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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