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Spooks sentenced in rendition ruling -

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Spooks sentenced in rendition ruling

Barney Porter reported this story on Thursday, November 5, 2009 12:34:00

ELEANOR HALL: Overseas again now and an Italian court has handed down a judgement that condemns the
rendition policy of the previous US administration.

Overnight a judge in Rome sentenced 23 US citizens to prison for the abduction of an Egyptian
cleric under the covert "extraordinary rendition" program.

But the Americans were tried in absentia and the Obama administration says it's disappointed with
the verdicts and that now there are concerns the case will jeopardise future intelligence-sharing
between the United States and Italian governments.

Barney Porter has our story.

BARNEY PORTER: Depending on your politics, it was an effective tool in President Bush's war against
terrorism, or simply torture by proxy. Osama Mustafa Hassan, better known as Abu Omar, was grabbed
from a Milan street in February 2003, in an operation coordinated by the CIA and Italian military

To that point, the radical Islamic opposition figure had enjoyed political asylum in Italy. He was
allegedly taken to a US air force base in north-eastern Italy, then flown to another US base in
Germany, and then on to Cairo, where he says he was tortured.

This is a statement given by one of his friends to the Italian police.

EXCERPT FROM STATEMENT: He was subjected to serious torture, the first measure was to leave him in
a room where incredibly loud and unbearable noise was made, his hearing has been damaged. The
second torture was to place him in a sauna at tremendous temperatures and straight after to put him
in a cold store room causing terrible pain to his bones, as if they were cracking. The third was to
hang him upside down and apply live wires to sensitive parts of the body, including his genitals,
and producing electric shocks.

BARNEY PORTER: The prosecutor immediately hailed the verdicts of Judge Oscar Magi, saying it sent a
clear message to governments that basic rights can't be forsaken even in the fight against

That's not the view of Guido Meroni, the defence lawyer for six of the convicted CIA agents. He's
described the verdict as absurd.

GUIDO MERONI (translated): With regard to my clients who weren't accused of carrying out the main
crime, just of surveillance and location scouting, there was insufficient evidence to convict them,
not even their true identities have been confirmed. It's all based on phone calls they're alleged
to have made, not on evidence obtained from their passports or from other official documents.

BARNEY PORTER: The Obama administration is also disappointed with the verdicts. The heaviest
sentence - eight years in prison - was handed to the former head of the CIA's Milan station, Robert
Seldon Lady, while 21 other former agents got five years each.

Among them was Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Romano, a serving US air force officer. The Pentagon had
asked for his case to be tried by US courts.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

GEOFF MORRELL: We had, as you know, asserted jurisdiction according to the NATO Status of Forces
Agreement. I would note that the ministry, the Minister of Justice in Italy agreed with us, that it
was a valid assertion of jurisdiction, and had in fact asked the court to respect our jurisdiction

So our view is the Italian court has no jurisdiction over Lieutenant-Colonel Romano and should have
immediately dismissed the charges.

BARNEY PORTER: That's a view shared by Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of CIA

VINCENT CANNISTRARO: This person was responsive to NATO regulations and not Italian unilateral
regulations and it does seem to be fairly foolish to have convicted him without any

BARNEY PORTER: Mr Cannistraro says the verdict is a low blow to counter-terrorism efforts and also
jeopardises future intelligence sharing between the US and Italy.

VINCENT CANNISTRARO: You don't have coordination within the Italian Government itself. And when you
don't have that kind of coordination, which one part of the government doesn't know what the other
part of the government is doing, how can you have a foreign service willing to share information
with a government that's fractured. That doesn't work right.

BARNEY PORTER: US officials have indicated an appeal against the court ruling is likely.

ELEANOR HALL: Barney Porter.