Robert Seldon Lady
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.
The Imam Rapito affair
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.
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.
On 16 February 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, 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. Lady dismissed his attorney soon afterwards, although the court in Milan has appointed a public defense attorney for him. The trial against Lady and the other US defendants began in absentia later that month, although it was quickly adjourned until October 2007.
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."
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."
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