London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Ex-CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady, who was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for his involvement in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, will not be returned to Italy to begin his sentence after being arrested in Panama earlier this week.
Lady was released by the authorities in Panama and boarded a US-bound flight after being arrested on Wednesday, US officials said.
“It’s my understanding that he is in fact either en route or back in the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
For his part, Italian deputy foreign minister Lap Pistelli issued a statement saying that Italy “acknowledges” Panama’s decision to return the fugitive CIA chief to the US. Italy and Panama have no official extradition treaty, while the US and Panama do.
Panamanian public safety minister Jose Mulino claimed that Lady was sent to the US because Italy had failed to formally request his extradition within the allotted time.
“The man was detained for 48 hours to be extradited, but the extradition request was never made formally in that span of time and he had to be released,” Mulino said.
Interpol had issued a request for Lady’s arrest.
In 2009, the former Milan station chief and 22 other Americans were convicted in absentia for their role in the “extraordinary rendition” of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, otherwise known as Abu Omar.
It is alleged that Abu Omar was abducted on a Milan street in February 2003 and flown to Egypt, where he was tortured.
The convictions in absentia were upheld in 2013 by Italy’s highest appeals court, while three more US citizens, including CIA Rome station chief Jeffrey Castelli, were convicted by an appeals court in February.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday, Abu Omar said: “I feel very happy, and if he [Lady] is truly handed over to the Italian authorities, then the world will receive a wealth of information . . . perhaps revealing new information in terms of which senior political and military leaders were involved in the operation to kidnap me.”
He added that Lady “has failed to comply with the instructions issued by his own country’s authorities towards those convicted in this case, warning them against travelling outside the United States. It seems that he ignored these warnings, and I hope that he is punished for this.”