ROME: The previous Italian government, led by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, played an important role in the alleged CIA kidnapping in 2003 of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, the head of a European investigation told an Italian daily.
The role of Berlusconi s government was not marginal in this affair, Swiss Senator Dick Marty said in an interview published Monday in La Repubblica, a left-leaning daily. Berlusconi s conservative government has repeatedly denied it had any prior knowledge or involvement.
Marty, who led an investigation for the Council of Europe into allegations that the CIA held terror suspects at secret prisons in Europe, said in a report released last week that 14 European nations, including Italy, colluded with the U.S. intelligence agency.
The report to Europe s top human rights body said the nations aided the transport of 17 detainees, who claimed they had been abducted by U.S. agents and secretly transferred to detention centers around the world.
In Monday s interview, Marty did not elaborate on what role he believed Italy had in the alleged kidnapping of Egyptian cleric and terrorist suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003.
The operation was believed to be part of CIA s extraordinary rendition strategy to transfer terrorism suspects to third countries where some allegedly are subject to torture.
Prosecutors in Milan have said Nasr was taken by the CIA to a joint U.S.-Italian air base, flown to Germany and then to Egypt, where the cleric has said he was tortured. The prosecutors have accused 22 purported CIA agents in the abduction, and are seeking their extradition.
The Berlusconi government decided against forwarding the extradition request to Washington, but prosecutors have said they would ask the new center-left government led by Romano Prodi to make the request. AP