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Italy refused to participate in CIA rendition: lawyer

[JURIST] Italy [JURIST news archive] refused a CIA request to participate in the alleged extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] of an Egyptian cleric [JURIST news archive] suspected of terrorism, a lawyer for an Italian spy agency official told Reuters in an interview published Monday. Luigi Panella, the lawyer representing Marco Mancini - then a division director of Italy's Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) [official website; Wikipedia backgrounder] - said SISMI denied the request in 2003 because officials believed the abduction was illegal. Mancini and his superior at the time, Gen. Gustavo Pignero, were arrested [JURIST report] earlier this month on suspicion of collaborating with the CIA and were under house arrest until prosecutors released them. Panella said Mancini has an audiotape in which he and Pignero discuss their opposition to the abduction, as well as that of Nicolo Pollari, chief of the Italian Intelligence and Security Services [official website].

Mancini's account contradicts that of an Italian defense official who testified before a legislative committee [JURIST report] earlier this month that Italy did not have advance knowledge of the alleged abduction. Pollari, along with other senior intelligence members and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, also have denied any involvement [JURIST report]. Arrest warrants have been issued for 26 Americans, most of whom are believed to be CIA agents, in connection with the case. 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. Reuters has more.

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