ROME: A recording of a conversation between two arrested secret agents implicates the head of Italy s military intelligence in the alleged CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, the lawyer for one of the agents said Friday.
Lawyer Luigi Panella said that his client Marco Mancini, the head of counterespionage at the SISMI intelligence agency, recorded the conversation with Gustavo Pignero in a Rome street shortly before the two officials were arrested earlier this month.
Both SISMI officials have been charged with kidnapping by Milan prosecutors investigating the 2003 disappearance of terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.
Italian officials have denied any knowledge of or role in the kidnapping, but Panella says the digital recording provides proof that his client opposed the kidnapping and that SISMI head Nicolo Pollari both knew and approved of the CIA operation.
In the recording, Mancini gets Pignero to acknowledge that Pollari had given him a CIA list of terrorist suspects that included Nasr s name.
Pignero confirms in the recording that the Americans wanted to seize Abu Omar and that he knew this from Pollari, who gave him the list, Panella told The Associated Press by telephone. The list was accompanied by an order to help the Americans.
Pollari has denied involvement. His lawyers, Franco Coppie Titta Madia, said that Pollari unequivocally prohibited any illegal action, although the proof was protected as state secret, the ANSA news agency reported.
Prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment. Panella said he didn t know what other names were on the list that was allegedly given to Pignero. He said would make public a transcript of the digital recording, which has been turned over to prosecutors, once they have concluded their investigation. The recording also has Pignero acknowledging that Mancini had been opposed to the kidnapping, Panella said.
Pignero recognizes that Mancini had refused (to go ahead with the operation) by saying that we are not in South America, he said.
Both Mancini and Pignero have been placed under house arrest.
Nasr was taken by the CIA to the joint U.S.-Italian Aviano air base, flown to Germany and then to Egypt, according to prosecutors. Through his lawyer he has claimed he was tortured in Egypt.
Nasr s disappearance is believed to be part of an alleged CIA program in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries where some allegedly are subjected to torture. The CIA describes such operations as extraordinary renditions.
Prosecutors also are seeking at least 25 Americans they say were CIA agents as well as an American who worked at Aviano.
The former center-right government refused to forward the prosecutors extradition request to Washington, but the prosecutors could ask the new government of Romano Prodi to do so.