MILAN: The wife of an Egyptian cleric taken from a Milan street, allegedly as part of the CIA s extraordinary rendition program, wept Wednesday as she described her husband s alleged torture in an Egyptian jail.
Heavily veiled and speaking through a translator, Ghali Nabila testified in the trial of 26 Americans and several Italians charged in Italy with kidnapping in the disappearance of Osama Moustafa Hassan, known as Abu Omar, in February 2003.
They put him on a cross, they beat him on the ears and all over his body, she told the court, citing a letter from her husband and conversations with him.
They positioned him on a chair, tied up his hands and his feet, she said before breaking into tears. And they gave him electrical shock all over his body, even his genitals.
Nabila, 39, said the torture continued over 14 months.
She also testified that her husband had told her during jail visits in Egypt in 2006 that the head of the prison had said the United States and Italy were offering $2 million if he told authorities that he had never been kidnapped and instead had gone to Egypt voluntarily. The deal also included US citizenship for Nasr, Nabila and their children from previous marriages, Nabila told the court.
Under cross examination, Nabila said that Nasr repeated the offer to her on numerous occasions from early 2006 until August-September of that year, but she did not say how often the offer had been made. She said he refused because the jail warden did not provide witnesses to verify the offer.
Nasr was released from Egyptian prison in February 2007, around the time the indictments were handed down in Italy. Nabila said the release was due to interviews she gave to the media, which exerted pressure on Egyptian authorities.
Nabila gave her testimony wearing a black niqab, which leaves only a small slit for her to see through. She wore black gloves on her hands, and during the morning testimony clutched her Italian identity card alongside a microphone. Her identity was confirmed by apparently lifting the cover to show her face behind a screen for the judge and his assistant. The screen remained in place for the first 20 minutes of testimony until she agreed to have it removed.
Titta Madia, a lawyer for Nicolo Pollari, a former Italian intelligence chief who is one of the defendants in the case, said the garb undermined her credibility as a witness.
It is a signal of a certain ideological fanaticism and extremism that we will use as an argument in this trial, Madia said.
He also doubted the US offer, noting that an Italian trial would not stop because a victim changed his story.
Earlier, Judge Oscar Magi ruled that Premier Silvio Berlusconi must testify. On trial are 26 Americans – all but one believed to be CIA agents – and several Italians charged with kidnapping a terror suspect.
The judge approved the defense request for Berlusconi s testimony as the case resumed. Magi also ruled that former Premier Romano Prodi and senior officials from both Berlusconi s and Prodi s past governments will be called to testify.
Berlusconi, who has just been elected to a new term, is considered a key witness because he was premier when the Egyptian cleric disappeared on a Milan street.
Italian prosecutors say Abu Omar was abducted as part of the CIA s program of extraordinary rendition, in which terror suspects are moved from country to country without public legal proceedings.
The CIA has declined comment on the case.
It was not clear when Berlusconi and the others would testify. The trial was recessed until May 28.
Still pending is a Constitutional Court ruling on the government s request to throw out the indictments against the Americans. The government claims the case was improperly based on classified evidence. A decision is expected when the Constitutional Court next meets, on July 8.
The trial in Milan will continue pending the decision.
Berlusconi s testimony had been requested by Pollari s lawyers. Pollari hopes the testimony might help prove that he was against the rendition, lawyers said. He could face from one to 10 years in jail if convicted. Pollari has denied any involvement by Italian intelligence in the abduction.
Berlusconi, one of the United States allies in its battle against terrorism, has expressed support for Pollari and has maintained his government was not informed about the operation and did not take part in it.
The trial is the first involving the CIA s extraordinary rendition program.
At the time of his disappearance, Abu Omar also was under investigation in Italy on suspicion of involvement in international terrorism.
Italian prosecutors say the cleric was briefly transferred to US bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he was imprisoned for four years. Nasr says he was tortured.
All but one American suspect in the case have been identified by prosecutors as CIA agents. They are being tried in absentia, and their Italian lawyers are all court-appointed, having had no direct contact with their clients.