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Former CIA operative's appeal denied in Milan kidnapping of radical cleric

Sabrina De Sousa, convicted in absentia in 2009, could appeal the decision to Portugal's highest court.

By Ed Adamczyk

LISBON, Portugal, April 11 (UPI) -- Portugal's Supreme Court upheld a decision Monday to extradite a former CIA operative to Italy, where she faces a prison term for a rendition kidnapping.

Sabrina De Sousa and 25 Americans, believed to be 24 CIA agents and one U.S. military officer, were tried in absentia in an Italian court in 2009 for the 2003 kidnapping in Milan of a Muslim cleric, Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, who was regarded as an al-Qaida recruiter by Italian police and the CIA.

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Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was abducted under the U.S. policy of rendition, used after Sept. 11, 2001, in which suspected terrorists are captured and flown to other countries for interrogation. He was sent to U.S. bases in Germany and Italy, then to Egypt, where he was released after 14 months.

Italy banned the policy of rendition, and sentenced De Sousa, 60, a dual citizen of Portugal and the United States, to seven years in jail.

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De Sousa, a native of the former Portuguese colony of Goa, now part of India, has said she only acted as a translator for the CIA agents planning the abduction of Nasr, and that she was on a ski vacation at the time Nasr was abducted in Milan.

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De Sousa, who reportedly left the CIA in 2009 and has been living in the United States until recently, was briefly detained in Lisbon in October, and in January a lower court ordered her returned to Italy. She appealed the extradition order, which the Portuguese Supreme Court denied on March 10.

The ruling was made public Monday.

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De Sousa's lawyer previously said she would make a final appeal to Portugal's highest court, the Constitutional Court, if the Supreme Court ruling went against her. Throughout the process she has maintained her innocence in the matter, and asked Italian authorities for a pardon. Italian President Sergio Mattarella has already pardoned one convicted CIA agent and shortened the sentence of another.

The court's ruling said De Sousa must go to Italy to hear her sentence, which has been reduced to four years, and could be returned to Portugal to serve the sentence. None of those convicted has gone to prison; neither has Nasr, who was convicted in absentia in Italy in 2013 to six years' imprisonment for terrorist activities.

The issue has strained relations between the United States and Italy, and put a spotlight on the U.S. practice of rendition, which the United Nations regards as a crime against humanity.

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