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Ex-CIA agent granted partial pardon by Italy for 2003 abduction of imam

By Andrew V. Pestano

March 2 (UPI) -- Italy has granted a last minute, partial pardon to Sabrina De Sousa, a former CIA officer who was convicted by an Italian court of participating in the 2003 abduction of the Imam of Milan, Abu Omar, as part of the "extraordinary rendition" program under former President George W. Bush.

De Sousa, a dual Portuguese and U.S. citizen, was one of 26 Americans convicted in absentia by Italy in 2009 for playing a part in the extraordinary rendition -- the transfer without legal process of a detainee to the custody of a foreign government for purposes of detention and interrogation -- of Abu Omar, also known as Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian cleric who was considered to be a radical Islamist.

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On Feb. 17, 2003, Omar was abducted off the streets of Milan while on the way to his mosque, taken to an American air base and then flown to Egypt. Omar was detained in Egypt, where he claims he was tortured, until 2007. In 2013, he was convicted of terrorism, in absentia, by an Italian court.

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Italian authorities sentenced De Sousa to four years in prison, but Italian President Sergio Mattarella's office said she was granted a partial pardon on Tuesday, which will reduce her sentence to one year that could be served with "alternative measures." De Sousa was arrested in Portugal and was due to arrive in Italy this week.

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Former Michigan GOP Rep. Peter Hoekstra told NPR that Italian officials lifted the arrest warrant under which De Sousa was arrested, adding she may now travel freely within the European Union.

Hoekstra said De Sousa said she is negotiating with Italian authorities to reach a deal in which she could perform community service in Portugal.

At least 136 individuals were subjected to the CIA's secret program in which at least 54 governments participated, the Open Society Justice Initiative said.

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