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Italy's ex-spy chief denies role in CIA "kidnap"

By Staff
Google Oneindia News

MILAN, Jan 29 (Reuters) Italy's former spy chief told a Milan court today he felt like a scapegoat as a judge considered indicting him along with CIA agents on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect in Milan, his lawyer said.

Nicolo Pollari, who denies wrongdoing, was head of military intelligence agency SISMI in February 2003, when prosecutors believe a CIA team grabbed Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and flew him to Egypt.

Nasr says he was tortured in Egyptian custody.

Judge Caterina Interlandi must decide if there is enough evidence for a trial. If so, it would be the first criminal procedure over renditions, one of the most controversial aspects of U.S. President George W Bush's global ''war on terrorism''.

The suspects are 26 Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, and six Italians, including Pollari -- who became the first defendant to testify since hearings began on January 9.

Pollari reiterated his innocence in court but complained in a written statement that he could not prepare a reasonable defence since information clearing his name was classified.

In closed-door testimony, Pollari said he was a scapegoat, one of his lawyers said.

Interlandi said she would consider the issue and adjourned the hearings until February 6.

Pollari wants Italy's current and former prime ministers, Romano Prodi and Silvio Berlusconi to testify on his behalf in court, since he is bound by state secrecy restrictions.

''They can tell how Gen Pollari opposed, with clear actions and absolute resolve, any hypothesis of plans for illegal activities including those related to the fight against terrorism,'' Pollari's lawyers said in a statement delivered to the court.

Washington acknowledges secret transfers of terrorism suspects to third countries, but denies torturing suspects or handing them to countries that do.

Nasr says he was tortured by Egyptian agents using electric shocks, beatings, rape threats and genital abuse. He says he was offered freedom if he collaborated with authorities, but refused. He is still being held in Egyptian custody.

Reuters SP DB2304

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