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Italy court suspends CIA rendition case to consider state secrets testimony

[JURIST] A judge on the Constitutional Court of Italy [official website, in Italian] on Wednesday suspended the trial of 26 Americans [JURIST news archive] and five former Italian intelligence officials for the 2003 abduction and rendition [JURIST news archive] of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr [JURIST news archive] to consider whether to compel a witness to answer questions that may implicate state secrets. During cross-examination in a closed session, Italian intelligence agent Giuseppe Scandone refused to respond [AP report] when defense lawyers for former Italian Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) [official website] chief Nicolo Pollari asked if Pollari had ever ordered subordinates to carry out the extraordinary rendition of a terror suspect. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] submitted a letter [La Stampa report, in Italian] to the intelligence officials before the hearing Wednesday arguing that though discussion of the relationship between Italy and foreign intelligence services may reveal state secrets, Pollari's defense team may be able to continue with their questioning. Judge Oscar Magi is expected to confirm with the government whether a reply from Scandone would implicate classified national security information before the trial reconvenes on October 22. AKI has more.

Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was seized on the streets of Milan by CIA agents with the help of Italian operatives, then allegedly transferred to Egypt and tortured by Egypt's State Security Intelligence before being released [JURIST reports] in February 2007. Defense lawyers for Pollari have said they need Italian agents' testimony and classified government documents to assert their defense that Pollari was not involved in the kidnapping. In May, Magi ruled that Berlusconi can be called to testify [JURIST report].

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