Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-A Milan court sentenced Italy’s former military intelligence (SISMI) chief Niccolo Pollari to ten years imprisonment, along with his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years imprisonment, for their role in the kidnapping of an Egyptian Muslim cleric in an operation organized by the United States. An American former CIA station chief had previously been sentenced to seven years in prison in absentia. Egyptian national Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr-known as Abu Omar alMasri-was snatched from a Milan street in 2003 and flown to Egypt for interrogation during the United States war on terror.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Abu Omar expressed his happiness at the ruling issued against those responsible for his kidnapping. He said, This ruling has returned much of my dignity and rights after these had been taken by the American and Italian intelligence agencies. This ruling demonstrates that nobody is above the law. He added, I would like to express my thanks to the Italian judiciary because despite three successive (Italian) governments’ attempts to put pressure on it, the court did not succumb to this. He emphasized that the current Italian government, led by Prime Minister Mario Monti, had attempted to get the case thrown out citing state secrecy. This was a tact that both the Romano Prodi and Silvio Berlusconi respective governments had also pursued.
Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, Julia Hall, stressed, State secrets should never be invoked to shield governments, including their intelligence officials, from accountability for such serious human rights violations. She added, If there is a further appeal, the Italian judiciary should make it crystal clear that when a person-intelligence agent or not-commits human rights violations, they cannot be covered up by government claims that disclosure would harm national security. As for Abu Omar’s case in particular, Hall asserted, His kidnapping and subsequent rendition and enforced disappearance were crimes, not national security secrets, and those responsible should be brought to justice. In addition to Pollari and Mancini, twenty-three Americans were tried in absentia in the Abu Omar case in 2009 and convicted. All but one of the accused were CIA agents.
Abu Omar informed Asharq Al-Awsat that he is not considering returning to Italy or Europe at the present time and is waiting to see what will happen next in this case, namely whether those convicted will appeal the decision.
He also revealed that his case is pending in front of the European Court of Human Rights, while he is also asking the Italian courts for compensation worth 10 million euros. The Italian judiciary ruled to give him 1.5 million euros in 2009 as temporary compensation until the case can be heard.
Abu Omar said, I am waiting to see what will happen in the compensation case because I am thinking of standing at the forthcoming Egyptian parliamentary elections. This is after I retired from politics following the January 25 revolution, 2011, which I participated in when I discovered that all fronts and parties only wanted to overthrow the president to reach power and were indifferent to the suffering of the poor.