Ex-CIA officer jailed in Portugal for her alleged role in kidnapping a terrorism suspect
Ian Shapira, WaPo, Feb 22 2017
Photo: Nikki Kahn, WaPo
A former CIA officer was jailed this week by Portuguese authorities and expects to be extradited within days to Italy, where she faces four years in prison for her role in the kidnapping of a terrorist suspect in Milan 14 years ago, according to her attorney. Sabrina De Sousa, 61, was one of 26 Pindostanis convicted in absentia by the Italian judicial system for the Feb 2003 extraordinary rendition of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr aka Abu Omar. So far, none of the Pindostanis have actually served time for their convictions since they had returned to Pindostan long before Italian courts ruled against them in 2009. But De Sousa, who holds dual Pindo-Portuguese citizenship, moved to Lisbon in Apr 2015. She was briefly detained that year in Portugal on a European arrest warrant, but released. Since then, she has lived in Lisbon, but Portuguese courts are expected to issue an official decree to ship her to Italy. In an interview on Wednesday, her attorney Manuel Magalhaes e Silva said the Portuguese judicial authorities recently handed down that final order, prompting her arrest at her home on Monday night. He said:
As always, she has a very good temper. Sabrina is a strong woman. She was expecting this. We knew at any time it could happen. She is currently being held at a facility in Portugal. She will likely be flown to Italy within the next four to six days. The Portuguese courts agreed to detain and extradite her to Italy on one condition: that she be given a new trial with a chance to present new evidence. But I’m worried that the Italian government will not comply with the stipulation. If the Italian authorities don’t comply with these conditions, that’s a violation of the European arrest warrant. It’s a political situation. It depends on the Portuguese government making a complaint, saying Italy is not respecting the rules of the warrant. The intention at this moment of the Italian authorities that there will be no second trial.
The saga began almost exactly 14 years ago, on Feb. 17, 2003, when two men snatched Abu Omar off the streets of Milan while he was walking to a mosque. He’d been deemed a terrorist suspect and was wanted by the CIA. He was flown to Egypt, where he was tortured in a prison but eventually released. At the time of the kidnapping, De Sousa was registered as a State Dept officer at the Pindo Consulate in Milan, though in actuality she worked as a CIA officer. She believes she possessed diplomatic protection. In 2005, Italian prosecutors began investigating the case on the grounds the operation violated local and international laws for arresting terrorist suspects in Europe. In early 2009, De Sousa resigned from the CIA, and later that year, Italian courts convicted her and two dozen other Pindostanis for the rendition, based largely on emails and cellphone records. The episode strained relations between the two countries. The case shows how little diplomatic protection Pindo spies have while working overseas. De Sousa has fiercely maintained she did not participate in the rendition and was chaperoning her son’s ski trip that day. She says she flew to Italy in 2002 as part of a group of CIA officers who met with their Italian counterparts to discuss the logistics of renditions and that she served as an interpreter between the services. She told the WaPo last year:
This has set a terrible precedent! This rendition was funded by Congress, with approval of senior government boxtops in Pindostan, Italy and Egypt!