The highest-ranking American official to be tried and convicted for abducting terror suspects overseas has been arrested in Panama, opening the possibility that he could be sent to prison for an "extraordinary rendition." In 2009, an Italian court convicted Robert Lady, the former CIA station chief in Milan, and 22 other American operatives for kidnapping a Muslim cleric six years earlier.
The abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was in 2003 at the height of the CIA's aggressive use of rendition, where foreign terrorism suspects were arrested in one country and then either transported to a U.S. facility in another country or turned over to a different government for questioning. (Nasr was eventually sent to Egypt, where he claims he was tortured.) The Italian intelligence services were also accused of being complicit, but courts did not allow them to be charged.
None of accused Americans appeared to face charges in Italy and Lady is now retired from the CIA. But earlier this year, he was sentenced to nine years in prison and is considered a fugitive by the Italians.
His whereabouts have been unknown since they first attempted to arrest him in 2005, but he has defended his actions in several interviews, stating that he was simply following orders while fighting the "war against terrorism."
It's not known how long Lady was in Panama or under what circumstances he was arrested, but there had been previous rumors that he settled in Honduras after leaving Italy. It's highly likely that Italy will request extradition, but it remains to be seen how far the U.S. will go to prevent that, or if they can pressure Panama — which is now involved in its second international law enforcement episode this week — to let him go.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.