On February 4th, an appeals court in Milan vacated the acquittals of three Americans who were convicted of abducting and torturing a suspected Egyptian terrorist. The Egyptian man claimed that he was abducted in Italy before being transferred to Germany, then Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured. All three men were part of a group of twenty-six Americans, mostly CIA members, that were charged with the crime. One of the three Americans is a former station chief for the CIA, and was sentenced to seven years while the other two men were sentenced to six. This ruling overturns the lower court’s holding that they received diplomatic immunity, which set them apart from the other twenty-six Americans.
The other twenty-three men already had their convictions upheld last year by Italy’s highest court, meaning all of the accused Americans have now been convicted. Interestingly enough, this is the first time that CIA agents have ever been convicted of crimes involving torture. However, five Italians allegedly involved in the incident have been acquitted, partly due to “state secrets” limiting the evidence against them that was allowed in the trial.
The Italian courts tried all twenty-six Americans in absentia, with none of them ever appearing in court, let alone Italian custody. Moreover, only two have attempted to contact their lawyers, and the United States has remained officially silent on the case. Of course, global politics come into play here. There is a 2006 amnesty that reduces everyone’s sentences in this matter by three years. Moreover, because of a decree from 2000, Italy cannot extradite convicted men and women unless their sentence exceeds four years. With both rules in effect, only one of the twenty-six Americans convicted faces potential extradition. Due to the upcoming Italian elections, whether or not that one American will actually be extradited remains to be seen. Nonetheless, all twenty-seven Americans risk the possibility of arrest if they enter Europe.
The appeals court in Milan is now reviewing the “state secrets” acquittal of the five involved Italians. Will their fate be the same as the Americans who were initially granted diplomatic immunity? Also, do the convictions really mean much if they cannot be enforced?
Source: Associated Press