CIA station chief arrested for extraordinary rendition

A former C.I.A. station chief, Robert Seldon Lady, who was convicted in Italy for his role in snatching a Muslim cleric off a Milan street and turning him over to Egypt has been arrested in Panama. The 2003 abduction of the Egyptian-born cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was emblematic in the debate over the American intelligence practice of “extraordinary rendition,” in which people suspected of being Islamic terrorists were abducted and then turned over for questioning in other countries where torture is often common.
The Obama administration did not end the practice, began under the Clinton administration in the 1990s and accelerated under the Bush administration.
In 2009, a Milan judge convicted Mr. Lady and 22 other American intelligence officials in absentia of the kidnapping.

The convictions were the first in an extraordinary rendition case. Three other former C.I.A. agents, including the former Rome station chief at the time of the abduction, were convicted in February. The same month, the court convicted five former Italian intelligence officials, including Nicolò Pollari, Italy’s former military intelligence chief, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the abduction.
Mr. Lady, 59, was arrested on an international warrant issued by Italy last December, after the highest appeals court confirmed his nine-year sentence. He had disappeared from Italy shortly after the investigation began.

It was unclear whether Italy would request Mr. Lady’s extradition, since it has no extradition treaty with Panama.

A few months before his 2009 conviction, Mr. Lady told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale: “Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism.”

Update: Former Milan station chief Robert Lady had been released and had boarded a US-bound flight, said American officials. WTF? A former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was detained in Panama on Thursday in connection with a criminal conviction in Italy was released and flew to the United States on Friday, American officials said. Italy’s justice minister, Anna Maria Cancellieri, protested, saying in a statement that Italy’s request for the extradition of the former C.I.A. officer, Robert Seldon Lady, based on an Interpol warrant, “has been disregarded without plausible explanations.”

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