Italy's ex-spy chief convicted over 2003 CIA rendition

Nicolo Pollari in a 2006 file photo Nicolo Pollari, who was head of the Sismi military intelligence agency, insisted he knew nothing of the 2003 kidnapping

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Italy's former intelligence chief Nicolo Pollari has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the rendition of a terror suspect.

The court in Milan also sentenced his former deputy Marco Mancini to nine years in jail over the 2003 kidnapping.

Italy's courts have already convicted in absentia 22 CIA agents over the same case. The abducted Egyptian cleric said he was flown to Egypt and tortured.

Pollari and Mancini are expected to appeal against their convictions.

Defence lawyer Nicola Madia says he has not been able to properly defend his clients because the Italian government has declared the case covered by state secrecy laws.

The Italian trials, which began in 2007, were the first in the world to bring to court cases involving extraordinary rendition, the CIA's practice of transferring terror suspects to countries where torture is permitted.

Extraordinary rendition - launched by the administration of US President George W Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks - has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.

Earlier trial

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian cleric better known as Abu Omar, was living in Milan when he was snatched off the street in daylight and flown to two US bases in Europe before being transferred to Egypt.

He claims he was then tortured for seven months, and held for years before being released without charge.

Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar (file image from 2007) Egyptian cleric Abu Omar claims to have been tortured

Pollari was acquitted when the first trial ended with the conviction of 23 Americans - all but one of them CIA agents - in 2009.

The CIA's Milan station chief at the time, Robert Lady, was given an eight-year term, while the other 22 Americans convicted - one of them a US air force colonel - were sentenced to five years in prison.

All of them are believed to be living in the US and are unlikely to serve their sentences.

Pollari, who was head of Sismi military intelligence agency in 2003, insisted during the trial that he had known nothing about the kidnapping, but that documents proving he was not involved were classified under secrecy laws. He resigned over the affair.

Last September Italy's highest court upheld the guilty verdicts on the 23 Americans, and ruled that Pollari and four other senior Italian secret service agents be tried again for their role in the kidnapping.

Tuesday's hearing, in Milan's court of appeals, also saw six-year sentences handed to three other Italian agents.

All five are expected to appeal and are unlikely to go to jail until the judicial process has been exhausted.

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