ROME – An Italian appeals court on Wednesday increased the sentences against 23 Americans convicted in the kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect involved in the CIA’s extraordinary renditions program.
In upholding the convictions, the court added one year to the eight-year term handed down to former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady and two years onto the five-year terms given to 22 other Americans convicted along with him, defense lawyers said.
They were never in Italian custody and were tried and convicted in absentia. But they risk arrest if they travel to Europe as long as the convictions stand.
The Americans and two Italians were convicted last year of involvement in the kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003 — the first convictions anywhere in the world against people involved in the CIA’s practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries where torture was permitted.
The cleric was transferred to U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He has since been released.
Amnesty International praised Wednesday’s decision as a step toward demanding greater accountability in Europe for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.
“Abu Omar was snatched off a Milan street and spirited away without any due process at all,” Julia Hall, an Amnesty counter-terrorism expert said in a statement. “The Italian courts have acknowledged that the chain of events leading to such serious abuses cannot go unanswered.”
The reason for the stiffer sentences won’t be known until the judges issue their written ruling in March. But Guido Meroni, who represents six U.S. defendants, said the court rejected the mitigating factors that had resulted in the original, lower sentences. In their original sentence, the judges noted that the Americans had just been following orders.
Prosecutors countered in the appeal that kidnapping can never be considered part of ordinary diplomatic or consular work…