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Robert Seldon Lady, Ex-CIA Station Chief Convicted in Italy of Extraordinary Rendition Kidnapping of Egyptian, Reportedly Arrested in Panama

Robert Seldon Lady, fugitive

Robert Seldon Lady, fugitive

A former CIA station chief tried and convicted in Italy for the 2003 abduction of a suspected Egyptian terrorist has reportedly been arrested in Panama.

The Italian Justice Ministry announced on Thursday that 59-year-old Robert Seldon Lady was detained in Panama. Panamanian Public Security Minister Jose Raul Molino, however, told the Associated Press that he was unaware of the American’s arrest. The Panamanian National Police also said it had no information about the case, and the CIA is not commenting.

Lady, formerly the CIA station chief in Milan, was tried and convicted in Italy for the 2003 kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. The suspected terrorist was walking to his Milan mosque for noon prayers when he was nabbed by CIA agents. Nasr was then transported to Egypt in a controversial American practice known as extraordinary rendition, the extrajudicial transfer of detainees from one country to another. While in Egypt, Nasr was brutally tortured– he was raped twice, his genitals were shocked with electricity and he was beaten so badly that he lost hearing in one ear.

Nasr was eventually ordered released by an Egyptian judge, who ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant his continued detention.

In 2007, Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro tried 23 Americans in absentia for the illegal kidnapping of Nasr. All were found guilty; Lady was sentenced to eight years imprisonment, the other 22 Americans, including an Air Force colonel, received five year sentences. The court also ruled that the Americans had to pay €1 million in damages to Nasr, who was described as “broken” following his harrowing ordeal, and another €500,000 to his wife.

Three high-ranking Italian intelligence officials charged in the case were not convicted due to the judge’s invocation of ‘state secrecy’; three senior US officials and the former head of Italian intelligence were granted diplomatic immunity.

Although the Americans were tried and convicted in absentia, Interpol, the intergovernmental organization facilitating international police cooperation, issued a request for Lady’s arrest. But since there is no extradition treaty between Italy and Panama, Lady’s arrest does not necessarily mean he will be sent to Italy to serve his prison sentence.

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