Italian official questioned in alleged case of kidnapped Egyptian cleric

Daily Star Egypt Staff
3 Min Read

ROME: A top Italian intelligence official arrested on charges of participating in the alleged CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric was questioned for a second day Saturday, amid growing evidence that the Americans did not act alone.

Marco Mancini, head of counterespionage at Italy s SISMI agency, was detained Wednesday on an arrest warrant issued by Milan magistrates investigating the alleged abduction. Prosecutors also are seeking the arrest of 26 Americans, all but one believed to be CIA agents.

Mancini, who has denied wrongdoing, was questioned Friday for more than six hours, and Saturday for four-and-a-half hours, according to agency reports.

His lawyer, Luigi Panella, was not answering his cell phone Saturday.

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian cleric and terrorist suspect also known as Abu Omar, allegedly was abducted from a Milan street in February 2003. Prosecutors say the operation was conducted by CIA agents, calling it a breach of Italian sovereignty that compromised their anti-terrorism efforts.

Prosecutors say Nasr was flown via Aviano and Germany to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in power at the time of the kidnapping, always maintained that his government and Italian secret services were not informed about the operation and had not taken part in it.

But Mancini s arrest and that of Gustavo Pignero, another SISMI official, gave the first clear signs that Italians might have been involved in the operation.

Transcripts of intercepted phone calls included with the arrest warrants of the Italian agents and published in Milan daily Corriere della Sera on Saturday appeared to show that Italy s secret services had assisted in a CIA investigation of Abu Omar before the alleged kidnapping.

And at least three more agents have told magistrates that SISMI was a part of the operation, and two said they attended planning meetings before the kidnapping, according to newspaper reports. The newspapers, including Corriere della Sera and Repubblica, did not cite sources.

He was allegedly taken to a nearby U.S. air base for interrogation and later transferred via Germany to Egypt, where he is still in prison, according to an ongoing probe by a Milan prosecutor into the abduction.

He will sue Silvio Berlusconi for 10 million euros, in his capacity as prime minister and for his involvement in the kidnap by having allowed the CIA to seize him, Montasser Al-Zayat, the cleric s lawyer said.

Abu Omar is currently being held in Tora prison, where many political detainees in Egypt are held. Agencies

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