ROME: Italy s constitutional court Tuesday began hearing arguments to throw out the trial of US and Italian secret service agents accused in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect in Italy.
The Italian government charges that Milan prosecutors violated state secrecy laws by using wiretaps on the Italian agents in their investigation.
The trial involves 26 American defendants – 25 CIA agents and a US air force colonel – who are being tried in absentia and another seven Italian defendants including General Nicolo Pollari, who was forced to resign as the head of military intelligence over the affair.
If the constitutional court decides in favor of the government, the case will probably be thrown out, since only evidence not obtained through the wiretaps will be permissible.
The prosecution had opposed the defense application, arguing that facts which jeopardize the constitutional order cannot be covered by state secrecy laws.
The court was expected to begin deliberations Wednesday, after adjourning the closed-door hearing Tuesday. It was not clear when a verdict would be issued, officials said.
The trial in Milan was suspended until March 18 pending the ruling by the Constitutional Court, which has delayed a decision several times.
Osama Mustafa Hassan, an imam better known as Abu Omar, was snatched from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, in an operation coordinated by the CIA and Italian military intelligence.
Abu Omar was transferred to a high-security prison outside Cairo, where he was held for four years. After his release in February 2007, he told of torture and humiliation during his incarceration such as being forced to defecate on the floor of his cell.
The trial, which opened in June 2007, is the first in Europe over the CIA s so-called extraordinary rendition program under which it has secretly transferred terror suspects to third countries known to practice torture.
Abu Omar s seizure was thought to be among scores of secret abductions around the world since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Among the Americans are the former CIA Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, the Rome CIA station chief Jeffrey Castelli and US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Romano, who was stationed at the Aviano air base in northeastern Italy at the time.
The Italian government has refused to seek the extradition of the 26 Americans requested by the Milan prosecutors. -Agencies