ROME: The head of Italy s military intelligence service came under heavy fire from parliamentarians Wednesday over allegations that he helped the CIA kidnap a Milan-based imam, said Italian news agency ANSA. In an extremely tense hearing in front of the Parliamentary Committee for Control of the Secret Services (COPACO), Nicolo Pollari repeatedly refused to answer questions about his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of the former imam of the Milan mosque, Osama Mustafa Hassan, Ansa said. The head of Italian military intelligence (SISMI) repeatedly fell back on the argument that he could not reveal state secrets, the agency added. The members of the military intelligence service behaved in a reprehensible manner from an institutional point of view, never mind their possible criminal responsibilities, the deputy chairman of the COPACO, Massimo Brutti, said after Pollari s hearing. There are grey areas that need to be clarified, added the committee s Chairman Caudio Scajola, who added that he intended to speak to the Italian government about the state secrets Pollari insisted he could not reveal. Hassan, who is of Egyptian origin and is also known as Abu Omar, was kidnapped in Milan on Feb. 17, 2003, allegedly by a CIA commando unit, and taken to Egypt. It is alleged that the United States suspected Hassan of having links with terrorism. Italian prosecutors in July asked Washington to extradite 26 CIA officers in connection with the affair. According to statements by a number of SISMI agents, which were made public in July, Italy s military intelligence services collaborated in the alleged CIA snatch.
Pollari and Italy s then prime minister, pro-American center-right populist Silvio Berlusconi, always denied any Italian involvement however. Pollari has always maintained he knew nothing of the kidnap plans and when questioned more deeply on the issue has said he cannot reveal state secrets. According to an increasing number of Italian media reports, Pollari s days at the SISMI are numbered. The reports say Italy s newly elected center-left government could soon replace him.