Ex-CIA agent requests pardon from Italy

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Robert Seldon Lady sent the letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
16:29 CEST+02:00
Weeks after narrowly escaping being extradited to Italy, former US spy Robert Seldon Lady has written to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano asking to be pardoned for kidnapping an Egyptian militant in Milan.

Lady was convicted in absentia along with 22 other CIA agents in 2009, for kidnapping Osama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, in 2003.

But in a letter addressed to Napolitano, Lady said he did not know he was doing anything wrong and since the abduction has found himself “in a legal paradox which has imprisoned me”.

“I was informed that my activities were in accordance with United States, Italian and international law,” he wrote in the letter published by Corriere della Sera.

Abu Omar had been granted asylum in Italy when he was abducted on a Milan street and allegedly flown to Egypt where he says he was tortured. The operation was part of the US government’s “extraordinary rendition” programme to round up suspected Islamic militants.

At the time Lady was the head of the CIA’s Milan station. He left Italy in 2005 and was sentenced to eight years in prison, upped to nine years on appeal in 2010.

In the five-page letter to the Italian president, Lady argues that he was merely a pawn in the US government’s plan and was unable to defend himself.

“None of the defendants, including myself, had any authority over the policies of the prior American administration,” he wrote.

“In order to provide a complete factual record to the courts and to Italy, I would have to reveal facts which might prejudice ongoing operations. As a person experienced in hunting terrorists, I could never do that.”

Lady has received the full backing of the US government and in July narrowly escaped extradition to Italy when he was reportedly arrested in Panama. The Italian Justice Ministry announced the arrest on 18th July, although within hours Lady was on a plane back to the US. The Panamanian authorities later denied that the former spy had been detained at all and complained that the Italian arrest warrant had not been written in Spanish.

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Addressing Napolitano, Lady claimed the international arrest warrant against him is “a violation of my human rights” and said he had been “more than adequately punished” already.

“I hope that you can end this matter in a way that pardons or commutes the sentence imposed on me,” he said, closing the letter to Napolitano.

The president’s office confirmed that the letter had been received and told The Local that the pardon request was forwarded to the Presidential Office for Justice Affairs.

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