Italy grants partial clemency to ex-CIA agent in abduction

Italy's president has granted a partial pardon to a former Central Intelligence Agency officer for her role in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric. Also known as Abu Omar, he was kidnapped from a Milan street in February 2003. The programme involved suspects being kidnapped and transferred to centres overseas, where they were interrogated and often tortured.

Sabrina De Sousa, a 61-year-old American citizen, was arrested in Portugal and was to have been handed over to Italy to serve a four-year prison sentence on Wednesday.

De Sousa was among 26 Americans accused of kidnapping Hassan Nas as part of a secret U.S. rendition program by the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The remaining defendants were convicted in absentia but also received pardons.

". She has always declared her innocence and keeping her in jail would have done no good to the friendly relations between the United States and Italy". The Italian officials who were tried over the Nasr incident had their convictions thrown out when the country's top court ruled that prosecuting them could reveal information sensitive to state security.

Italy was the first country to prosecute USA intelligence agents for roles in the rendition programme.

She repeatedly fought her extradition and lost several appeals after her arrest. She has said she had been living in Portugal and meant to settle there.

She has maintained her innocence throughout and, extraordinarily, has been supported by Abu Omar, who claims she is being used as a scapegoat by the USA government to protect high-ranking officials.

  • Leroy Wright