Milan: An Italian judge on Wednesday began deliberating the fate of 26 Americans and seven Italians accused of kidnapping an Egyptian terror suspect in 2003, the first trial in the world involving the CIA`s extraordinary rendition program.
After a nearly three years of hearings, Judge Oscar Magi heard final arguments before beginning deliberations. A verdict was expected Wednesday.
The American suspects — all but one identified by prosecutors as CIA agents — are being tried in absentia and are considered fugitives. Their lawyers, who have had no contact with their clients, have entered innocent pleas on their behalf.
The Americans are accused of kidnapping Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on Feb. 17, 2003, off a street in Milan, then transferring him to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany. He was then moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He was released after four years in prison without being charged.
The trial is the first by any government over the CIA`s extraordinary rendition program, which transferred suspects overseas for interrogation. Human rights advocates charge that renditions were the CIA`s way to outsource the torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted.
The Milan proceedings have been a sore spot in relations between the United States and Italy. The CIA has declined to comment on the case, and Italy`s government has denied involvement.
The viability of the trial had been cast into doubt after Italy`s Constitutional Court ruled earlier this year that evidence pertaining to the alleged CIA-run kidnapping was considered classified and therefore inadmissible.
But Magi ruled that the politically charged case could go ahead even without the evidence.