(CN) – Italian secret services likely knew about the CIA’s 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric, though state secrecy shielded the court from finding out for sure, a judge in Milan said.
In the 217-page document released Monday, Judge Oscar Magi explained his landmark November decision convicting 23 Americans of kidnapping Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from the streets of Milan on Feb. 17, 2003. The convicted Americans include a former CIA base chief and other CIA operatives.
Italian prosecutors said Nasr was flown from a U.S. air base in Italy to Germany and then to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured.
He resurfaced a year later, when he called his wife and reported his alleged torture. Prosecutors were able to trace Nasr’s disappearance by tracking the phone records and credit cards bills of CIA agents, the New York Times reported.
Magi said the success of the abduction, conducted in broad daylight, “leads to the presumption that such activity was carried out at least with the knowledge (or maybe with the complicity)” of the Italian secret service.
But he said it was “not possible” to prove such a link, because the requisite evidence was ruled inadmissible by Italy’s Constitutional Court.
The judge said this state secrecy exemption draws a “black curtain” over parts of the trial, the New York Times reported.
The case marked the first time a judge in an allied country placed CIA agents on trial, according to the Times, and the first convictions involving the United States’ practice of “extraordinary rendition,” where terrorism suspects are captured in one country and interrogated in another, often one that’s more open to coercive techniques.
The 23 Americans, tried in absentia, pleaded not guilty. The Italian government is not expected to request their extradition from the United States, and it’s unlikely they’ll face jail time.