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Cleric in CIA kidnap trial seeks $15 million

An Egyptian cleric allegedly kidnapped from a Milan street in 2003 as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program on Wednesday asked for nearly $15 million in damages.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An Egyptian cleric allegedly kidnapped from a Milan street in 2003 as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program on Wednesday asked for 10 million euros (nearly $15 million) in damages from the American and Italian defendants charged in his abduction.

Carmelo Scambia, lawyer for Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, said his client has been left deaf in one ear and suffering problems with balance and walking. Emotionally, Scambia said, Nasr's behavior is childlike, anxious and terrorized.

Scambia appealed to Judge Oscar Magi to award the damages to send a signal to Nasr and his wife "that reality exists, that principles exist." Magi is hearing the case against 26 Americans and seven Italians accused of Nasr's abduction.

Prosecutors say Nasr was taken in broad daylight from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, transferred in the back of a van to the Avian Air Base in northern Italy, then flown to the Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany before being flown onward to Egypt.

During the nearly four years Nasr was in Egyptian custody, Scambia said his client suffered "unimaginable torture" including rape, electric shock and repeated beatings.

Before his abduction, Nasr was under surveillance as a terror suspect by Italian authorities, but Scambia emphasized that no arrest warrant had been issued at the time of his disappearance.

"He was not a terrorist. He enjoyed political asylum. And most of all, he was a human being," Scambia told the court.

Scambia asked the judge to find the defendants guilty and award 5 million euros immediately upon sentencing. The balance would be awarded pending final appeals, which can last for years.

International arrest warrants
A lawyer for Nasr's wife, Ghali Nabila, also is seeking 5 million euros for her suffering during years of not knowing her husband's whereabouts and for the deterioration of her husband's physical and mental health. Nabila did not know her husband's fate for more than a year after his abduction. He contacted her in April 2004 during a brief release from Egyptian custody, before being put back in prison until his eventual release in February 2007.

Twenty-six Americans, all but one believed to be CIA agents, are on trial in absentia, accused of kidnapping Nasr as part of the CIA program. All are considered fugitives, and have international arrest warrants issued against them. Seven Italians also are charged.

Human rights advocates say renditions were the CIA's way of outsourcing the torture of suspected terrorists to countries where it was practiced. The CIA hasn't commented on the case, the first in any country to scrutinize extraordinary renditions.

Prosecutors have demanded prison sentences ranging from 10 to 13 years for the American defendants. The trial continues with closing arguments by the defense, and a verdict is expected next month.

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