Retrial row halts extradition of ex-CIA agent from Portugal
AFP, Aug 1 2016
Photo: Barbara L Salisbury/MCT
LISBON – Portugal has put the brakes on the extradition to Italy of a former CIA agent over her role in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian imam who claimed he was subsequently tortured. Sabrina de Sousa, 60, who holds both Pindosi and Portuguesi nationality, by her own account worked as a translator for the CIA team that planned the abduction of Imam Abu Omar in Milan, without being involved directly in the operation. She told AFP via email on Monday:
The extradition process seems to have stopped for now. The extradition was to have been completed by Jun 18. If Italy now says that is not possible, the Portuguese judges will have to take that into consideration. Once we see what is in the letter, we can file a last extraordinary appeal before the supreme court of justice.
In June, her lawyer described her extradition as “imminent” after it was approved by the supreme court of justice. But now the process seems to have come unstuck over whether de Sousa will be granted a fresh trial or the opportunity to appeal her 2009 conviction once she is back in Italy as per the terms of the extradition agreement. She denies all of the charges against her. The operation was allegedly led jointly by the CIA and the Italian intelligence services. De Sousa was detained under a European Arrest Warrant at Lisbon airport last October. According to the Portuguese Expresso newspaper, the Italian justice ministry recently wrote to Lisbon saying there would be no new trial or appeal. In 2012, Italy’s supreme court of cassation upheld the sentences handed down after the trial in absentia of de Sousa, 22 other CIA operatives and a Pindosi soldier. They were given jail terms ranging from seven to nine years. De Sousa’s sentence was later reduced to four years. The trial took place under intense media scrutiny because it was the first time that anyone associated with the secret rendition programme had ever been brought to justice. In her email to AFP, de Sousa reiterated her claim that the trial lacked credibility. She referred to the complicity of Italian officials, all of whom she said had been granted impunity, and wrote:
As a former CIA officer, I am now challenging the charges against me levied by Italy. There are larger issues as well: absence of due process and imposition of state secrets to hinder the process even further. Lower level federal officers like myself who had no input into the planning … nor ability to influence decisions, should not be left holding the bag.
Alluding to the idea that neither Italy or Pindostan would like the rendition programme to receive fresh publicity, de Sousa warned that the issue would not vanish from the public gaze. She said:
Looking into the future, while President Obama may have distanced himself from most of the interrogation program, unless this issue remains in the public forum, future presidents will bring it back. Trump has said he will bring it back. Clinton has demonstrated an unwillingness to address or investigate the issue of torture.