Italian Prosecutors Seek Indictments of CIA Agents

In Italy, prosecutors have asked a judge to indict more than 30 people thought to be connected with the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003. Those named include 26 Americans, most of them CIA agents, and five Italians, including the former head of the Italian intelligence service.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And here's some news about an agency that Robert Gates once led - the CIA. Prosecutors in Italy are seeking the indictment of 26 Americans, most of them CIA agents. The prosecutors also want indictments of five Italian intelligence officials. All are accused of roles in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003. And this move could lead to the first-ever trial over the Bush administration's policy of extraordinary rendition. It could further strain U.S.-Italian relations as well.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Milan prosecutors say that on February 17, 2003, CIA agents -with help from the Italian intelligence agency SISMI - grabbed the cleric, who was under investigation in Italy for international terrorism. The man known as Abu Omar was flown to Egypt, where he has said he was tortured in prison.

The indictment request names 25 CIA agents, including two former station chiefs in Italy, and a U.S. Air Force officer. It also names the outgoing head of the SISMI agency, Nicolo Pollari, and four other SISMI agents. Another Italian suspect, a police officer, has admitted he helped the CIA agents nab the cleric. Prosecutors say the suspects left behind numerous clues. They were identified through phone records and hotel and car rental payments, a sign, several commentators say, the alleged kidnappers believed they had official approval.

But the conservative government at the time, headed by staunch U.S. ally Silvio Berlusconi, denied all knowledge of the operation which violated Italian sovereignty. The current center-left government has not yet asked for the American suspects' extradition, which in any case is not likely to be granted.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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