Strasbourg, Feb 24: The Italian government abused state secrecy in the CIA's kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric who was spirited to his homeland for interrogation under torture, the European Court of Human rights has ruled.
The Strasbourg-based court found Italy guilty of numerous human rights violations and ordered it to pay a total of 115,000 euros compensation to Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr - better known as Abu Omar - and to his wife Nabila Ghali.
The abuses included violating the ban on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to liberty, the respect for private and family life and the right to an effective remedy, the court ruled on Tuesday.
The court also condemned the Italian government for allowing agents involved in the kidnapping to escape with "impunity" and the quashing by Italy's top criminal court of the convictions of five Italian military intelligence agents on state secrecy grounds.
Italian authorities "were aware that Abu Omar was a victim of the extraordinary rendition operation" involving his 2003 abduction in the northern city of Milan, the court concluded.
Nasr's lawyer, Carmelo Scambia, expressed bitterness at the low level of damages but welcomed the court's affirmation of "certain principles".
"The European Court's ruling is harsh," commented centre-left lawmaker Rosa Calipari, a member of the Italian parliament's national security commission.
"It should make us reflect on the use of state secrecy, which is a legitimate instrument but a delicate one," Calipari added.
Nasr was kidnapped by CIA operatives in 2003 on a street in Milan and flown to a US air force base in Germany and then on to Egypt under the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme.
He was released from prison in 2007 but cannot leave Egypt. His lawyers say he was ill-treated and tortured for months before being released without charge.
Italy has denied involvement in the rendition of Nasr and never pursued the extradition of 26 Americans, including 22 CIA agents, convicted in absentia over the case in 2009 by an Italian court, which ordered the US nationals to pay a million euros to Nasr and 500,000 euros to his wife.
A Milan court in 2013 convicted Nasr in absentia and sentenced him to six years in jail for membership of a terrorist organisation. He had been granted political asylum by Italy in 2001.
The CIA's controversial extraordinary rendition programme was set up to capture and question Islamist terror suspects in the wake of Al Qaeda's September 2001 attacks on the US.
The European Court ruled in three previous rendition cases involving detention sites in Macedonia and Poland that the treatment of "high-value" detainees was torture.