[JURIST] Faced with possible indictment by an Italian judge, US and Italian intelligence agents implicated in the 2003 kidnapping and extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] from Milan of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] Tuesday pressed for a political resolution of their case. Hearings [JURIST report] to decide the legal fate of some 30 operatives have begun after a December request by Italian prosecutors that Judge Caterina Interlandi take legal action [JURIST report] against 26 US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] agents and five officials from the Italian Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) [official website], including former SISMI chief Nicola Pollari. Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, claims he was tortured after being grabbed off a street in Milan and ultimately sent to Egypt. If Interlandi determines that there is enough evidence to proceed to trial in the case, the trial would be the first criminal prosecution stemming from US rendition practices.
Daria Pesce, the lawyer for accused CIA agent Robert Seldon Lady, withdrew from the case [AP report] Tuesday, stating that the former CIA station chief did not want to cooperate. Pesce told AP that her client believes "this case should have had a political solution and not a judicial solution. The Italian government could have decided it was a state secret - remember, this was a terror suspect. It would have been possible if the Italian government had had the courage to reach an agreement with the US government." None of the agents charged attended the closed session hearings; the next hearing is scheduled for January 29.
In October, prosecutors said they had completed their investigation [JURIST report] into the incident and would once again press for the extradition of the 26 American agents [JURIST report] believed to be involved in the case. If extradition is once again denied, Milan prosecutor Armando Spataro has said he would be forced to try the US agents in absentia [JURIST report]. This summer, several Italian intelligence agents were arrested [JURIST report], and last month the Italian cabinet removed Pollari [JURIST report] from his post, despite his denials of involvement [JURIST report] in the incident. Reuters has more.