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Iran Press TV

Panama arrests ex-CIA station chief indicted in Italy for abduction

Iran Press TV

Fri Jul 19, 2013 7:40AM GMT

A former CIA station chief in Italy's capital of Milan has been arrested in Panama years after his conviction in the European nation for abducting a Muslim preacher from an Italian street as part of the US extraordinary rendition program.

Robert Seldon Lady, the American spy master in Milan in early 2000s, was detained early Thursday at Panama's border with Costa Rica, according to Italian officials familiar with Italy's probe into the rendition of Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr by CIA operatives in the European nation which led to the conviction of 26 CIA spies and other US government agents despite Washington's objections.

The extraordinary rendition program was part of the US "war on terror" effort during the George W. Bush administration and following the September 11, 2001terror incidents in New York and Washington, in which American military forces and intelligence operatives would snatch "terror suspects" overseas and transport them to one of the many CIA-run interrogation and torture centers allied countries across the globe and the United States.

Nasr was hustled into a car by the 59-year-old Lady and his aides in February 2003 on a Milan street and taken to US military bases in Italy and Germany before being flown to Egypt, where he was reportedly jailed and tortured without legal charges and released sometime later.

Italy then conducted a probe into the illegal abduction and charged the 26 US agents, all of whom had left the country before charges were filed against them in a 2009 trial, involving the CIA's notorious extraordinary rendition effort.

Italy then sentenced Lady in early 2013 to a nine-year imprisonment, facilitating his arrest on Thursday, according to Italian judiciary officials.

In various interviews with press outlets, however, Lady has claimed innocence in the abduction of Nasr, insisting that he was just "following orders."

'I'm not guilty. I'm only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors,' Lady said in 2009 to Italian newspaper Il Giornale .

He is also cited in press reports as telling Italian journalists following his conviction in the nation that "I console myself by reminding myself that I was a soldier, that I was in a war against terrorism, that I couldn't discuss orders given to me."

The Honduran-born Lady, who had been with the CIA spy agency for nearly 25 years at the time he abducted Nasr, has described the infamous American intelligence institution as "the vanguard of democracy" and his experience there as "the greatest job I ever had," in another interview with the US-based GQ Magazine.

'When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal," he further told the journal adding, "It's a life of illegality, but state institutions in the whole world have professionals in my sector, and it's up to us to do our duty.'


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