An Indian-origin former CIA officer is facing extradition from Portugal to Italy and a possible four-year jail term for her alleged role in the American intelligence agency’s abduction of an Egyptian cleric in 2003 from Milan, according to a media report.
Sabrina De Sousa, 60, who has a dual citizenship of the US and Portugal, told The Washington Post that she played no role in Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr’s, also known as Abu Omar, kidnapping. She lives in Portugal while her 90-year- old mother lives in India.
She was among 26 Americans convicted in absentia by Italian courts for her alleged role in the February 2003 rendition of Omar.
She faces no threat for imprisonment in Italy as she moved back to the US long before the Italian trial began. However, she was detained in Lisbon last year by Portugal authorities in response to a European arrest warrant.
“This week, Portugal’s highest court upheld the country’s lower courts’ rulings, declared that they did not violate the constitution, and said De Sousa should be sent to Italy as soon as May 4,” the Post reported yesterday.
At the same time, Portugal’s Constitutional Court also reiterated a condition set by the lower courts and guaranteed by Italy in De Sousa’s European arrest warrant that once she arrives in Italy, she must be given another trial or a chance to appeal with new evidence, and the ability to call Italian and US witnesses, because she had been tried in absentia, the daily reported.
“De Sousa’s extradition and potential imprisonment would be an astonishing turn of events for a case that raises major questions about how much diplomatic protection CIA case officers abroad possess when carrying out operations sanctioned by their superiors,” the paper said.
Benjamin Fischer, a former CIA chief historian, described this as unprecedented. In her interview to the daily, she rued that the CIA is not helping her. CIA declined to comment.
“Those of us who were convicted were accredited diplomats and declared to the Italian government. We instead find ourselves treated like NOCs with our US government affiliation disavowed.
“I would have never joined the CIA if I was told there was a remote possibility that I would never see my mother in Goa again and not travel abroad. This has set a terrible precedent. This rendition was funded by Congress with approval of senior government officials in the US, Italy and Egypt,” De Sousa said.
It all began on February 17, 2003 when a team of CIA agents in Milan swooped down on Omar, as he walked from his apartment. He was flown to Egypt, where he was interrogated and released later. In 2005 reports surfaced that CIA officers had allegedly broken local laws against detaining terrorist suspects in Europe.
De Sousa resigned in 2009 after she failed in her efforts to persuade the State Department to grant her immunity.
According to a 2012 report in Caravan, Sabrina grew up in Mumbai. She married a US diplomat in 1985 when she changed her citizenship. They divorced in 1996.