Cairo, 16 June (AKI) – Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric reportedly kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan in February 2003, wants to return to Italy and sue former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for Italy’s involvement in the plot, his attorney says. “Abu Omar wants to return to Italy, he considers himself an Italian,” Montasser Al Zayat told Turin-daily La Stampa in an interview published on Friday. The attorney said his clients wants to sue Berlsconi “who is co-responsible for his kidnapping, to get compensation.”
Al Zayat added that Abu Omar “knows that he will have to stand trial in Milan but he says he is sure that judges will listen to him and acquit him because he believes he is innocent.”
The imam is currently in the Tora jail, in Cairo.
Italy’s intelligence services have been accused of helping US agents with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) kidnap the cleric. Milan magistrates have opened an inquiry into the case and Italian agent Luciano Pironi, a member of the anti-terror squad of the Carabinieri military police, is currently under investigation in Milan for allegedly helping CIA agents abduct Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.
Berlusconi, a close ally of US President George W. Bush, is accused of helping the US kidnap the man, considered by Washington a key al-Qaeda strategist in Europe.
The Milan judges in charge of the case have also ordered the arrest of 13 CIA agents believed to be responsible for the abduction of the imam.
His capture is part of a controversial practice of “extraordinary rendition” stepped up after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Terror suspects are picked up irrespective of national laws and sent to third countries in what rights groups denounce as ‘outsourcing torture’.
Serving the arrest warrants may prove near impossible and the prospect of extraditing CIA agents to Italy seems even more remote.
The Italian official is the only person under investigation risking to be tried and convicted on abduction charges.
The government of Berlusconi has always claimed it was not involved in the abduction.
After being kidnapped, the imam reappeared in April 2004, when he called his wife – whose phone line was tapped – to tell her he was still alive. He also told an Egyptian imam in Milan, Mohammed Ridha, that after his kidnapping he had been driven to an American airbase, questioned and beaten, and the following day flown to Egypt where was handed over to the interior ministry.
Omar was later unexpectedly released, on the condition that he told no-one what had happened. However after the phone calls to his wife and Ridha, which were reported in the Italian newspapers, he was arrested and is now jailed in Egypt.