Berlusconi slams Italian arrests over alleged CIA kidnapping of Egyptian cleric

Daily News Egypt
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ROME: Ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who lost power in April elections, attacked Italian magistrates on Wednesday for chasing after CIA agents and Italian spies over the alleged kidnap of a terrorism suspect. Berlusconi also said that Rome risked increasing the chances of a terrorist attack on Italian soil if the government loses its close ties with the CIA over the case. The world is upside-down: Those who defend the security of the country go to jail, said Berlusconi, leader of the centre-right opposition and Italy s richest man. But whoever attacks the secret services who have this mission (to protect us) is the real terrorist, he was quoted as saying by Italian media. Italian prosecutors say a CIA-led team abducted radical Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street in 2003, bundled him into a van and flew him to Egypt. There, Nasr says he was tortured. Twenty-six Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, face arrest warrants in Italy over the abduction. Two officials with Italy s military intelligence agency Sismi, including its second-highest ranking member, were arrested last week and are under house arrest over their suspected roles. If [leaders of the center-left government] break it off with the CIA we are vulnerable to attacks; we are facing an incredible lack of responsibility, Berlusconi said, according to Italy s ANSA news agency. The center-left government has defended Sismi and Defense Minister Arturo Parisi said on Wednesday that Italians should distinguish between the agency and possible wrongdoing by some of its spies. Berlusconi reiterated his long-standing position that he did not know about a plot to abduct Nasr. Any proof of Italian involvement would confirm one of the chief accusations made by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty in a report last month that European governments colluded with the United States in secret prisoner transfers. Nasr, being held in an Egyptian prison, had political refugee status in Italy at the time of the alleged kidnapping. But he faces an arrest warrant in Italy over suspicion of terrorist activity, including recruiting militants for Iraq.

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