The Associated Press Original Posting here
The appeals trial in the CIA-led kidnapping of an Egyptian terrorism suspect from the streets of Milan opened Tuesday with the prosecution seeking to incriminate Italian secret service agents acquitted in the initial trial.
Twenty-three Americans and two Italians were convicted in November in the 2003 kidnapping of the Egyptian cleric - the first legal convictions anywhere in the world involving the CIA's extraordinary renditions program.
But the judge at that time also acquitted three American diplomats, citing diplomatic immunity, along with five Italian secret service agents, including the former chief, citing state secrecy.
In Tuesday's opening session, the prosecution asked the court to reintroduce incriminating statements by several of the Italian agents that were later thrown out after a higher court ruled they were protected under state secrecy.
The court reserved its decision until the next session Monday.
As allowed in the Italian system, both the prosecution and defense attorneys are appealing the verdict.
In explaining his verdict in February, Judge Oscar Magi was direct in his criticism of the use of state secrecy, saying it created "a logical and judicial paradox" when it came to evaluating the potential roles of Italian military intelligence in the kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on Feb. 17, 2003, from a Milan street.
The judge said the fact that the CIA ran the operation on Italian soil "allows the presumption" that Italian secret services were at least aware or "maybe even complicit."
Former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady received the top sentence of eight years in prison. The other 22 convicted American defendants, including former Milan consular official Sabrina De Sousa and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Romano, each received a five-year sentence. Two Italians got three years each as accessories for their role in trying to derail the prosecutors' investigation.
After being kidnapped in Milan, Nasr was transferred to bases in Aviano, Italy, and Germany. He was then moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He has since been released, but was not been permitted to leave Egypt.
Romano's lawyer renewed his request made during the trial that his client be tried by an American court, saying Italian judicial authorities did not have jurisdiction over Aviano base under the NATO agreement.
The defense for the former head of military Intelligence Nicolo Pollari also requested that Premier Silvio Berlusconi and former Premier Romano Prodi, along with their respective defense ministers, be called to testify, arguing they could prove his innocence.
The convicted Americans, who were tried in absentia, cannot travel to Europe without risking arrest as long as the verdicts remain in place
A recent summary from the case of Italian citizen Abou Elkassim Britel - October 2010 as follows:
The kingdom of Morocco for years has been criticized by the world for all the wrongful procedures it employs in its confrontations with so-called “terrorists” or in some cases certain branches of Islam. The Moroccan NGOs persist in their work regarding these procedures, evidently, because of the egregiousness of human rights violations (secret detentions, confessions extorted under torture, intimidating them and their families, etc.).
The NGOs seek the liberation of the majority of them who are considered innocent. Some believe that the state now wants to break them by force, because several documents admitting responsibility have been signed. (Whether under torture or no, is one of several questions yet doesn't rule out that 1) the torture/intimidation/threats were unlawful and inhumane and 2) that the "info" allegedly received was not accurate due to force/coercion/torture.
The United States could have (may be likely to have) special knowledge about this case. Morocco continues to arrest people accused of terrorism and then “doesn’t know” what happens to them next so they say. This may be due to the "need" to show commitment to Europe and the USA.
NOTE: Some rights advocates and others who've followed this case have concluded that Kassim was taken there by a CIA plane and the US is responsible for what happened to him.
In other reports, the U.S. State Department has several times criticized the brutality of the Moroccan security forces.
Not known at this point is whether or not the Italian Consulate has visited Britel. Evidently, no news has been offered the family at this posting.
Summary of an article from Alkarama : Prisons marocaines : L’escalade de la répression
Britel is one of about 100 people detained in different Moroccan prisons who were transferred to Kenitra on October 9, 2010. The transfer was carried out with exaggerated violence. They were awakened in the middle of the night, handcuffed and blindfolded, and their personal effects including their clothes were taken from them. When the prisoners arrived at Kenitra, the highly excited guards beat them, threatened them with death, and stripped them completely. Anyone who expressed even a mild protest was suspended and beaten for long hours.
This reception was (evidently) directed by the Director of the Kenitra Prison, Mustapha Hadjli, who (evidently) encouraged the guards to torture the prisoners. Most of those transferred were Muslims, serving stiff sentences after unjust trials that occurred in the last few years. Family members who were allowed to visit their loved ones on October 11, 2010, confirmed the prisoners showed signs of beating and torture. The relatives themselves were subjected to particularly humiliating body searches.
This repression clearly represents a serious escalation in the treatment of political prisoners in Morocco – people who were arrested for their political and religious convictions and subjected to show trials that often relied on evidence obtained using torture. This treatment reflects the political authorities’ choice of confrontation rather than appeasement in its dealings with the opposition.
Alkarama, 12 Octobre 2010
Here's another report:
On Friday the 8th or Saturday the 9th of October, at 6 am, Abou Elkassim Britel endured a coerced transfer from Oukasha jail to the jail at Kenitra, Morocco. Deprived of his clothes, clock and all other personal effects, Kassim was made to get in a car blindfolded, and when he arrived at Kenitra, was thrown on the floor and roughly mistreated with kicking and beating.
Already sick and tired from the years of imprisonment and torture, he was put in a cell without clothes, food, bed, or blankets, suffering from the bruises and wounds. He is hungry, and has been deprived of his food supplies.
Sunday evening his wife, not having more recent news from him than Thursday, sounded the alarm.
On the 11th of October this year, 2010, one of his sisters succeeded in meeting with him. Kassim, in tears, told the story and asked to be visited soon by the Italian Ambassador or the Consul.
This is the general English-language web site in solidarity with Kassim Britel here
More EARLIER items on or including mention of El Kassim Britel:
1) See Quite Thorough Interview from 2008 recounted the beginning of the detention/imprisonments in full at Cage Prisoners here See three more EARLIER items listed below...
2) Earlier actions called for on behalf of Elkassim Britel here ;
3) Earlier US voting by one vote to approve Torture and Rendition here ;
4) When Federal Appeals Court Adopted Obama "STATE-SECRETS" Doctrine to block torture case here
Steve Hendricks, an investigative writer who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee and Helena, Montana, has just published A Kidnapping in Milan
[Question 6] Did Barack Obama end the extraordinary renditions program? If
not, what changes did he introduce to it?
[Answer]A lot of Americans think Obama ended it, but the program is alive and well. Obama did ban U.S. personnel from torturing captives, but, after some initial obfuscation, he said through subordinates that he intended to continue extraordinary renditions, which is to say to continue torture-by-proxy, which is to say to violate, as Bush did, the UN Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is a signatory. In court Obama has argued, again just as Bush did, that lawsuits against the United States by victims of renditions must be dismissed because they jeopardize national security.
Where Obama differs from Bush is that his renditions seem to be fewer and quieter. At least, we can infer they’re fewer because we aren’t hearing about them. It’s possible that he has rendered only a very small handful of people. On the other hand, Clinton rendered dozens of people so quietly that we heard almost nothing of them at the time, and we still know little about most of them. Another difference is that Obama shut down Bush’s black sites, so America has probably returned to the Clintonian practice of handing our captives to our Third World confederates more or less immediately. But it falls to future reporters and historians to discover whether Obama’s crimes against humanity are few or many, even if they don’t live up the impressive mark of his predecessor.
The full interview is at: http://harpers.org/archive/2010/10/hbc-90007598 or GO here
The following article may be related to recent federal rulings as well as the many year history of torture and rendition by the hands of US authorities - GO here
By coincidence, it also related to the following quote from a book which came out October 11, 2010 (found following under one of the reasons given on author's website as to why he wrote this book)
"I was also intrigued because the victim was probably a terrorist, not an utter innocent, which added a shade of gray to a story that might otherwise have been more black and white. I wanted to see if I could make a convincing case that TORTURE WAS WRONG no matter who its victim was.”
"A Kidnapping in Milan": The CIA on Trial tells the story of the CIA's rendition in 2003 of a radical imam from Milan to Cairo, of the imam's torture in Egypt, and of one Italian magistrate's struggle to put the CIA's kidnappers on trial. Amnesty International USA (and locally, the WNC ACLU) is promoting the book as part of its Counter Terror with Justice Campaign. More info about the book: www.SteveHendricks.org
Why Steve Wrote the Book
“The barbarisms of America’s ‘War on Terror’ appalled me, as did reporters who went along with the barbarisms,” Steve says. “I was particularly taken aback by the Bush (and now Obama) claims that torture-by-proxy makes us stronger. I wrote A Kidnapping in Milan because few reporters have shown what torture really looked like, because the Italian magistrate who was prosecuting the CIA kidnappers was a charismatic figure, and because I wanted to see if he would succeed in his struggle against American lawlessness. Also, before the CIA kidnapped Abu Omar, the Italians seemed to have had him under thorough and fruitful surveillance, and the snatch appeared to have badly damaged Italy’s work against terrorists. This case, in other words, looked like a good example of how the ‘War on Terror’ made the West less safe. I was also intrigued because the victim was probably a terrorist, not an utter innocent, which added a shade of gray to a story that might otherwise have been more black and white. I wanted to see if I could make a convincing case that torture was wrong no matter who its victim was.”
I'm including the following just in case you'd like to read more about the author and the book - Synopsis and Why Steve Hendricks wrote the book - GO here
MEDIA on "Kidnapping in Milan" here
SEE more reports on Abou Elkassim Britel and Italy on CIA Suits to follow.