July 7, 2006

Jailed Italy spy chief questioned over CIA kidnap

By Emilio Parodi

MILAN (Reuters) - Prosecutors questioned the jailed deputy
director of Italy's military spy agency on Friday, two days
after arresting him on suspicion of involvement in the alleged
CIA kidnapping of a terrorism suspect in 2003.

Marco Mancini, arrested on Wednesday, has said through his
lawyer that he had nothing to do with the alleged "rendition"
of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu

Prosecutors believe a CIA-led team grabbed Nasr off the
street in Milan, bundled him into a van and drove him to a
military base in northern Italy. He was then flown to Egypt
and, Nasr says, tortured under questioning.

Twenty-six Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, also
face arrest warrants for the abduction.

"I never kidnapped anyone and I never participated in the
kidnapping of anyone. I'm at ease. I have faith in justice," he
was quoted as saying by one of his lawyers before the

Another official from the Sismi military intelligence
agency was placed under house arrest and is expected to be
questioned by prosecutors next week.

Domestic spying allegations have also sprung up since the
arrests. Italian media, without citing sources, reported that
prosecutors believe Sismi was building secret archives on
journalists, magistrates and even politicians.

That has prompted calls for a parliamentary inquiry and
Italy's Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said this week that he
was willing to discuss reforming the intelligence services.

The prosecutor's office in Milan declined comment.

Any proof of Italian involvement would confirm one of the
chief accusations made by Council of Europe investigator Dick
Marty in a report last month -- that European governments
colluded with the United States in secret prisoner transfers.

"It seems difficult to me that an operation of this sort,
which would involve top-level intelligence agents, happened
without the political authorities knowing absolutely anything
about it," Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said on Thursday.

In Strasbourg, the European Parliament backed up the
Council of Europe's accusations in a resolution adopted on

It said it was "implausible ... that certain European
governments were not aware of the activities linked to
extraordinary rendition taking place on their territory."

Nasr's lawyer said he planned to visit Italy within the
next two weeks to sue Italy for 10 million euros ($12.73
million) for its alleged role in the kidnapping. He is being
held in prison in Egypt without charge, his lawyer, Montasser
el-Zayyat, said.

Nasr had political refugee status in Italy. But he faces a
pending arrest warrant in Italy on suspicion of terrorist
activity including recruiting militants for Iraq.