Defense requests Berlusconi testimony in CIA kidnap case

Other News Materials 16 April 2008 22:59 (UTC +04:00)
Defense requests Berlusconi testimony in CIA kidnap case

( AP ) - Lawyers for a former Italian intelligence chief requested Wednesday that Premier-elect Silvio Berlusconi testify in the trial of 26 American and Italian suspects charged with kidnapping a terror suspect during a CIA operation.

Nicolo Pollari's defense also requested outgoing Premier Romano Prodi as a witness, said lawyer Alessia Sorgato, who represents some of the American defendants.

Berlusconi, who won Italy's national elections Monday, is considered a key witness because he was premier when Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr disappeared in February 2003.

Italian prosecutors say Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was abducted on a Milan street as part of the CIA's program of extraordinary renditions - moving terror suspects from country to country without public legal proceedings.

The CIA has declined to comment on the case.

Berlusconi's testimony in the Milan trial is being requested partly to prove that Pollari was against the rendition, Sorgato said. Also among the requested witnesses are the defense ministers and undersecretaries in both Berlusconi's 2001-06 government and Prodi's 2006-08 government.

Judge Oscar Magi will decide May 14 on whether to allow the testimony of Prodi, Berlusconi and the other officials. Pollari could face from one to 10 years in jail on a kidnapping charge.

Italian prosecutors say the cleric was transferred to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before being moved to Egypt, where he was imprisoned for four years. Nasr, who was released last year, said he was tortured.

All but one American suspect in the case have been identified by prosecutors as CIA agents. Seven Italians, including Pollari, were indicted in the case.

Pollari has denied any involvement by Italian intelligence in the abduction, and Berlusconi has publicly supported his military secret services chief.

The Americans are being tried in absentia, and their Italian lawyers are all court-appointed, having had no direct contact with their clients.

Prosecutors have repeatedly pressed Rome to request their extradition. Berlusconi's previous government refused the request, while Prodi's government never responded.

A senior U.S. official has said they would not be turned over for prosecution, even if Rome requests it.