Italy cuts sentence for CIA agent who kidnapped imam

Italy on Tuesday granted a partial pardon to a former CIA agent found guilty over the kidnap of an Egyptian imam in 2003, in a case that has sparked a long legal tussle.

Italy cuts sentence for CIA agent who kidnapped imam
Abu Omar attends the first trial over the secret US "extraordinary rendition" programme, in Milan June 8th 2007. Photo: AFP

Sabrina de Sousa, 60, was set to be extradited to Italy in the coming days to face justice over the abduction of radical preacher Abu Omar in Milan, after she was arrested in Portugal last week.

She had gone on trial in absentia along with 22 others in what were the first legal convictions in the world against people involved in the CIA's extraordinary renditions programme that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But Italian President Sergio Mattarella has granted her “a partial pardon of one year's imprisonment”, reducing her jail time to three years of a lenient form of sentence that does not necessarily need to be served behind bars and allows the convict to work.

Mattarella's statement notably did not mention plans to extradite de Sousa, and he said her sentence — which would no longer involve physical detention — could potentially be further relaxed.

The presidency said it had “taken into account the attitude of the convicted, the fact that the United States has stopped the practice of extraordinary rendition, and the need to rebalance the sentence with those of other people convicted for the same offence.”

Omar was kidnapped from a Milan street on February 17, 2003 in an operation allegedly led jointly by the CIA and the Italian intelligence services.

He was then transfered to Egypt where his lawyers say he was tortured, in a case that highlighted the controversial secret renditions of suspected radicals by the United States and its allies.

De Sousa has said she served as an interpreter for the CIA team that organised Omar's abduction but denies any direct role in the operation.


Romanian billionaire and seven others die in Milan plane crash

A light aircraft piloted by Romanian billionaire Dan Petrescu crashed into an empty office building near Milan on Sunday, killing him, his wife and son, and all five others aboard.

Police and rescue teams outside the office building where a small plane crashed in the Milan suburb of San Donato.
Police and rescue teams outside the office building where a small plane crashed in the Milan suburb of San Donato on October 3rd. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The single-engine Pilatus PC-12 had taken off from Milan’s Linate airport shortly after 1pm headed for Olbia in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia.

It crashed just a few minutes later into a building in San Donato Milanese, a town southeast of Milan, according to aviation agency ANSV, which has opened an investigation.

Witnesses said the plane was already in flames before it crashed into an office building undergoing renovations.

Petrescu’s 65-year-old wife, who also had French nationality, and their son Dan Stefano, 30, were killed.

Italian media identified the other passengers as entrepreneur Filippo Nascimbene, a 33-year-old from Lombardy, with his wife, young son and mother-in-law, who have French nationality.

Petrescu, 68, was one of Romania’s richest men. He headed a major construction firm and owned a string of hypermarkets and malls. He also held Germany nationality, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

Flames engulfed the two-storey building, next to the yellow line subway terminus.

“The impact was devastating,” Carlo Cardinali, of the Milan fire brigade, told news agency Ansa.

Deputy prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano was quoted by Corriere as saying that the plane’s black box had been recovered.