Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr

Black site Enhanced interrogation techniques Ghost detainee
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr CIA.jpg
Surveillance photo of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr.
Other namesAbu Omar
Born (1963-03-18) 18 March 1963 (age 57)
ReligionSunni Islam (Salafism)
Other namesAbu Omar
Senior posting

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (Arabic: حسن مصطفى أسامة نصرḤassan Muṣṭafā Usāmah Naṣr) (born 18 March 1963), also known as Abu Omar, is an Egyptian cleric. In 2003, he was living in Milan, Italy, from where he was kidnapped and tortured in Egypt.[1] This "Imam rapito affair" prompted a series of investigations in Italy, culminating in the criminal convictions (in absentia) of 22 CIA operatives, a U.S. Air Force colonel, and two Italian accomplices, as well as Nasr, himself.[2]

Early life

He is a member of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, an Islamic organisation that was formerly dedicated to the overthrow of the Egyptian government; the group has committed to peaceful means following the coup d'état that toppled Mohamed Morsi.[3] The group has been linked to the murder of Anwar Sadat in 1981 and a terrorist campaign in the 1990s that culminated in the November 1997 Luxor massacre. As a result, it is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.[4] After the Egyptians declared the group illegal, Nasr sought asylum in Italy. During the 1990s he fought in Bosnia.

Abduction by the CIA

On 17 February 2003, Nasr was abducted by CIA agents[1] as he walked to his mosque in Milan for noon prayers, thus becoming an effective ghost detainee. He was later transported to a prison in Egypt where, he states, he was tortured.[5]

In April 2004, while his incarceration had been downgraded to house arrest, Nasr placed several phone calls from Egypt to his family and friends. He told them he had been rendered into the hands of Egypt's SSI at Tora Prison, twenty miles south of Cairo.[6] He said he had been subjected to various depredations, tortured by beating and electric shocks to the genitals, raped,[7] and eventually had lost hearing in one ear.[8] At the time of the calls he had been released on the orders of an Egyptian judge because of lack of evidence. Shortly after those calls were made he was re-arrested and placed back in prison.

Nasr's case has been qualified by Swiss senator Dick Marty as a "perfect example of extraordinary rendition", and in Italy prompted a series of investigations and intrigues within the Italian intelligence community and criminal justice system collectively referred to as the Imam Rapito (or "kidnapped Imam") affair in the Italian press.

In February 2016, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy over this affair and ordered Italy to pay €115,000 (£90,000; $127,000) in damages and expenses to Nasr and his wife, Nabila Ghali.[9]

Convictions of CIA agents and others

On 4 November 2009, an Italian judge convicted in absentia 22 CIA agents, a U.S. Air Force (USAF) colonel and two Italian secret agents of the kidnap.[10][9] Eight other American and Italian defendants were acquitted.[10]

Former Milan CIA station chief, Robert Seldon Lady, received an eight-year prison sentence. USAF Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. Romano, at the time of the conviction commander of the 37th Training Group of the 37th Training Wing, and 21 of the American defendants received five-year prison sentences. Those convicted were also ordered to each pay 1 million Euros to Nasr and 500,000 Euros to Nasr's wife.[11][12][13]

In 2010, leaked diplomatic documents revealed the efforts the United States used in an attempt to stop Italy from indicting the CIA agents, and that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi assured US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that he was "working hard to resolve the situation" but that the Italy's judicial system was "dominated by leftists".[14]

In July 2013, Robert Seldon Lady was initially detained in Panama at the request of Italian authorities, but then released and allowed to board a flight to the United States.[15]

In January 2016, former C.I.A. agent Sabrina De Sousa, one of the agents convicted in Italy, was ordered by Portugal to be extradited to Italy, although that order will be appealed.[16] She was briefly detained at the Lisbon airport in October 2015, and her passport was confiscated pending a court review of the European arrest warrant issued for her arrest.[16] She has disclaimed any involvement in the affair and has been working to clear her name, including writing a memoir about her activities.[16] Her appeal was denied on April 11, 2016.[17] After being detained in Portugal in February 2017 and about to be deported to Italy, she was pardoned by the Italian president and released on 28th February 2017.[18]

Release in February 2007

Abu Omar and his lawyer Montasser el-Zayat in Cairo

On 11 February 2007, Nasr's lawyer Montasser el-Zayat confirmed that his client had been released and was now back with his family.[19] After four years of detention, an Egyptian court ruled that his imprisonment was "unfounded."[20]

Conviction in Italy

In December 2013, Nasr was convicted in absentia of terrorism by an Italian court for offenses before his abduction.[2][9][21] Egypt had not responded to Italian requests to extradite or even interview Nasr for the trial. Nasr remains living in Egypt and is unlikely to be sent to Italy to serve out his sentence.[21][16]

See also


  1. ^ a b "CIA agents guilty of Italy kidnap". BBC News. November 4, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Italy convicts abducted Egypt cleric Abu Omar, BBC News, 6 December 2013
  3. ^ "Jama'a al-Islamiya rejects Assem Abdel Magued". Egypt Independent. 5 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  4. ^ THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION, COUNCIL DECISION of 21 December 2005 on specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities with a view to combating terrorism
  5. ^ Wilkinson, T. and G. Miller. (2005). "Italy Says It Didn't Know of CIA Plan". The Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2005.
  6. ^ "Parla l'avvocato di Abu Omar "L'imam sarà liberato a giorni"". Repubblica.it. 2006-10-17. Retrieved 2011-12-19.
  8. ^ Grey, S. and D. Van Natta. (2005). "In Italy, Anger at U.S. Tactics Colors Spy Case". The New York Times, June 26, 2005.
  9. ^ a b c "European court censures Italy over CIA 'abduction'". BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  10. ^ a b CIA agents guilty of Italy kidnap BBC
  11. ^ Barry, Colleen (Associated Press), "Italy convicts Air Force O-6 in CIA kidnap case", Military Times, November 4, 2009.
  12. ^ "Italian court finds CIA agents guilty of kidnapping terrorism suspect", 4 November 2009, John Hooper, The Guardian
  13. ^ "Italy Convicts 23 Americans for C.I.A. Renditions", November 4, 2009, New York Times
  14. ^ ""US Pressured Italy to Influence Judiciary", ''Der Spiegel''". Spiegel.de. Retrieved 2011-12-19.
  15. ^ "Panama releases former CIA operative wanted by Italy", July 20, 2013, The Washington Post
  16. ^ a b c d Minder, Raphael (15 January 2016). "Portugal to Extradite Ex-C.I.A. Agent to Italy in Rendition Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  17. ^ "SIC Notícias | Supremo rejeita recurso contra extradição de ex-agente da CIA detida em Lisboa". SIC Notícias. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  18. ^ McKenna, Josephine (2017-02-28). "Italian president grants partial pardon to former CIA agent Sabrina De Sousa". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  19. ^ Egypt releases 'rendition' cleric, BBC, 12 February 2007
  20. ^ International Herald Tribune, February 16, 2007, Italy indicts 31 linked to CIA rendition case (in English)
  21. ^ a b "Italy: Egyptian Cleric Convicted". The New York Times. Associated Press. 7 December 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2016.