Reuters ROME: A Muslim cleric is seeking millions of euros in damages from the Italian state, after accusing CIA agents and Italian spies of kidnapping him in Milan and flying him to Egypt for torture. A lawyer acting for Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, in his first interview since arriving in Rome on Wednesday from Egypt, said the cleric would prefer to settle out of court but was ready to lodge a civil case.
It is also in the interest of the Italian government to close this case, to close this dark chapter. It s also in the interests of the United States, Montasser Al-Zayat said late on Wednesday, speaking through a translator. He said any eventual settlement would have to be in the millions, not thousands, of euros. He also wanted damages against Washington. The lawsuit should take place in Italy since that is where the crime was committed, not the United States, Al-Zayat added. A Milan judge has ordered 26 Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, to stand trial along with Italian spies for kidnapping Nasr in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where the cleric says he was tortured. The Americans will be tried in absentia, since Washington has indicated it will not hand them over. The trial is set to begin on June 8, but the Italian government has asked the Constitutional Court to consider halting the case, arguing that magistrates broke state secrecy rules when pursuing their investigation. Neither Rome nor Washington have acknowledged any role in the alleged kidnap operation. Some Italian suspects, however, have spoken openly about it, including a police officer who accepted a suspended sentence in return for his confession. Al-Zayat said Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, wanted to cooperate with Milan magistrates who accuse him of terrorist activity, including recruiting combatants for Iraq. He said the imam wanted to return to Italy – even though he would be immediately arrested on suspicion of terrorist association. Nasr was released from Egyptian prison last month but is unable to leave Egypt because authorities had confiscated his passport, Al-Zayat said. Abu Omar has requested to return to Italy – whatever the price, even if he should go to prison. Because he is sure, very sure of his innocence and has faith in Italian justice, he said. The cleric, in recent comments to reporters in Egypt, has said he would like to testify in Rome. Al-Zayat said he wanted to determine if there were legal impediments in Italy to his client s return.