Robert Seldon Lady

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Robert Seldon Lady (born February 2, 1954 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; nicknamed "Mister Bob") is a United States agent convicted of kidnapping in Italy for his role in the CIA's abduction of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in February 2003, while Lady was CIA station chief in Milan.

Lady was arrested in Panama on July 18, 2013. He had been a fugitive from Italian police after being convicted of kidnapping Nasr in February 2003, in what the Italian press are referring to as the Imam Rapito (or "kidnapped imam") affair. He was released on July 19, 2013, and immediately boarded a flight directed to the United States.


Lady grew up in Honduras and became a New Orleans Police Department police officer in the 1970s.[1]

The Imam Rapito affair[edit]

Italian authorities proved in court that in 2003, Lady helped a team of CIA agents kidnap Nasr (see extraordinary rendition) as he walked to his mosque in Milan for noon prayers. Lady is said to have travelled to Egypt soon after the operation, where Nasr was interrogated and tortured.

Lady initially claimed diplomatic immunity in an effort to avoid judicial proceedings against him in Italy, but in November 2005 an Italian judge rejected this request, stating that Lady had forfeited his immunity when he retired from the CIA, and also that the alleged abduction was in any case a crime serious enough to disqualify him from immunity.[2]

Lady, and his wife Martha, retired to northern Italy, near Asti, in September 2003. When the Italian police raided his home in June 2005, Lady was not there. Since that time there are reports that he is living in Honduras or the United States.[3]

2007 indictment[edit]

In January 2007, an Italian court ordered Lady's home in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy seized to cover court costs.[4]

On February 16, 2007 an arrest warrant was issued for Lady for the kidnapping of Abu Omar. An Italian prosecutor, Armando Spataro, was scheduled to begin trying the case in June 2007. Lady's Italian lawyer, Daria Pesce, withdrew from the case shortly after the beginning of legal proceedings,[5] saying her client refused to cooperate with the court proceedings because he believed the matter should be settled through a political, rather than legal solution.[6] Lady dismissed his attorney soon afterwards, although the court in Milan has appointed a public defense attorney for him.[7][8] The trial against Lady and the other US defendants began in absentia later that month, although it was quickly adjourned until October 2007.

In an interview with GQ Magazine in March 2007, Lady said of his superiors at the CIA that "the agency has told me to keep quiet and let this blow over."[7][8]

2009 Interview[edit]

In June 2009, Robert Seldon Lady was quoted by Il Giornale as saying of the kidnapping,

I'm not guilty. I'm only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors ... When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal. It's a life of illegality ... But state institutions in the whole world have professionals in my sector, and it's up to us to do our duty.

He said of Abu Omar’s abduction, "Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism."[9][10]

2009 Conviction[edit]

On November 4, 2009, Italian Judge Oscar Magi convicted Lady, along with 22 other accused CIA employees, of kidnapping, handing down an eight-year sentence. The New York Times called this decision a "land mark ruling" and an "enormous symbolic victory" for Italian prosecutors because it "was the first ever to contest the United States practice of rendition, in which terrorism suspects are captured in one country and taken for questioning in another, presumably one more open to coercive interrogation techniques."[10]

On July 18, 2013, according to the Italian Justice Ministry, Lady was arrested in Panama.[11][12] He was released the next day.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Olimpio, Guido (June 24, 2005). "Bob, 007 senza limiti. Chi lo ha coperto?" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. 
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Tracy (December 24, 2005). "Court Widens Net for 22 CIA Agents to EU". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ Hallmark, Clayton (August 14, 2005). "CIA Fugitive From Italian Justice is Located". DC Indymedia. Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Italian judge orders seizure of CIA agent's villa". Reuters. January 26, 2007. Archived from the original on April 22, 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  5. ^ Barry, Colleen (January 9, 2007). "Italian Lawyer in CIA Case Withdraws". Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 30, 2007. 
  6. ^ Ciancio, Antonella (February 16, 2007). "CIA agents ordered to stand trial for Italy kidnap". Reuters. Archived from the original on February 14, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Blowback" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 25, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b Wilkinson, Tracy (June 9, 2009). "In Italy, Trial of CIA Agents Begins". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2007. 
  9. ^ Stewart, Phil (June 30, 2009). "U.S. spy says just followed orders in Italy kidnap". Reuters. Archived from the original on November 29, 2011. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  10. ^ a b Donadio, Rachel (November 4, 2009). "Italy Convicts 23 Americans for C.I.A. Renditions". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Ex-CIA Milan chief held in Panama over cleric abduction". BBC. July 19, 2013. Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. 
  12. ^ Messia, Hada (July 18, 2013). "American wanted by Italy in rendition case arrested in Panama". CNN. Archived from the original on July 20, 2013. 
  13. ^ Cole, Matthew; Windrem, Robert (July 19, 2013). "Panama frees ex-CIA official detained in Italy 'rendition' case". NBC. Archived from the original on April 22, 2014. 

External links[edit]