An Italian judge on Friday ordered 25 alleged CIA agents and the former head of Italy’s military intelligence service to be put on trial on charges of kidnapping an Egyptian imam in Milan and spiriting him abroad in February 2003.
The trial will be the first criminal prosecution of people alleged to have been involved in the US Central Intelligence Agency’s controversial abductions of terrorist suspects after the attacks on the US of September 11 2001.
It also presents a fresh problem for US-Italian relations, already dogged by disputes over the planned expansion of a US military base in north-eastern Italy and the ability of Italy’s centre-left government to keep Italian forces fighting under Nato auspices in Afghanistan.
Caterina Interlandi, the Milan judge who ordered the trial, set June 8 as the date for the start of the proceedings.
The case concerns Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who prosecutors say was kidnapped on a Milan street, bundled into a van, driven to a US airbase at Aviano, flown to another US base in Germany and then taken to Egypt for interrogation.
Among those accused are 26 Americans, all but one alleged to be CIA agents, and Nicolò Pollari, the former head of Italy’s military intelligence service, whom the government removed from his post last November.