In 2003, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (AKA Abu Omar), an Egyptian refugee, was kidnapped off the street in Milan by the CIA as part of a joint operation with the Italian SISMI. He was rendered to Egypt, where he was detained, beaten, electrocuted and raped in the name of the "war on terror". In 2009, an Italian court convicted 23 CIA agents for their role in Abu Omar''s rendition and torture. And now, after a retrial, they've convicted the then-head of SISMI and his deputy:
Italy's former intelligence chief Nicolo Pollari has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the rendition of a terror suspect.
The court in Milan also sentenced his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years in jail over the 2003 kidnapping.
Pollari, who was head of Sismi military intelligence agency in 2003, insisted during the trial that he had known nothing about the kidnapping, but that documents proving he was not involved were classified under secrecy laws. He resigned over the affair.
Last September Italy's highest court upheld the guilty verdicts on the 23 Americans, and ruled that Pollari and four other senior Italian secret service agents be tried again for their role in the kidnapping.
Tuesday's hearing, in Milan's court of appeals, also saw six-year sentences handed to three other Italian agents.
They're appealing, so there's a long way to go yet, and Berlusconi's self-serving changes to the statute of limitations may mean that they never face jail even if the convictions are upheld. But the mere fact of a conviction sends a powerful message about the accountability of spies and the rule of law. If only the US courts would do the same...