Sunday, February 18, 2007

Justice for Rendition III

In 2003, a CIA-snatch squad kidnapped a suspected terrorist from the streets of Milan, bundled him off to a US air force base, and flew him to Egypt where he was tortured. Now, three years later, an Italian court has indicted 26 US citizens - almost all CIA agents - and ordered that they stand trial. In addition, seven Italians, including former secret service chief Nicolo Pollari, have also been indicted. So, there may yet be some justice for this appalling abuse of human rights and complicity to torture.

Unfortunately, Italy allows trials to be held in absentia - a violation of the fundamental right to a fair trial. Rather than compromising the human rights of the accused in this way, it would be better to aggressively pursue extradition, and make damn sure that those accused can not set foot outside the United States for fear of ending up in an Italian prison.

And as a further note, this report in the Chicago Tribune suggests former CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady may not just be in trouble in Italy:

Although Abu Omar did not mention it in the handwritten statement, his lawyer, El Zayat, said that his client told the Egyptian prosecutor in his earlier testimony that a man who looked, dressed and spoke English like an American had been present during the first several days of his interrogation.

Asked whether the mystery man had been present during the torture as well as the questioning, El Zayat replied in a recent interview here that his client was "not sure."


Cell phone and hotel reservation records compiled by the Milan prosecutors show that Robert Seldon Lady, then the CIA's chief in Milan, traveled to Cairo four days after Abu Omar arrived here and that Lady stayed for two weeks.

Daria Pesce, an Italian lawyer representing Lady, who is one of the CIA operatives charged in Abu Omar's kidnapping, will say only that his visit to Cairo was "official" CIA business.

Conspiracy to torture is a crime under US law. And even if Lady was merely supervising the questioning, if he knew what his Egyptian mooks were doing between sessions to ensure that the victim gave the right answers, then he's guilty.

Unfortunately, under the Bush administration, the chances of him being prosecuted for his crimes are about as high as his chances of being extradited to Italy.


If the Americans have the right to turn up, and won't face torture or the like if they do, then how will an in absentia trial breach their rights?

Like when a suspect waives the right to silence, if the Americans are fully informed of the impact of their decision and take it knowing the consequences, then why can't the Americans just waive the right to be present during the trial. Nothing stopping them from being represented by counsel, I assume.

However, that Lady was in Cairo is not terribly compelling evidence that he conspired to commit torture - a conspriacy would have to take place before the torture occured.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 2/18/2007 10:16:00 AM