Sabrina De Sousa

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Sabrina De Sousa
Born1956 (age 63–64)
NationalityPortugal and United States

Sabrina De Sousa (born c. 1956 in Bombay, India) is a Portuguese-American convicted (in absentia) of kidnapping. In 2009 she was convicted of kidnapping in Italy for her role in the 2003 abduction of the Muslim imam Abu Omar, who was kidnapped in Milan and subsequently tortured. Sousa was sentenced to four years in prison for her role in the kidnapping.[1] A European Arrest Warrant valid throughout Europe was subsequently issued for her arrest, and she was arrested in Portugal under that arrest warrant in 2015. She was due to be extradited back to Italy to serve her sentence, having exhausted her appeal rights against her extradition in Portugal,[2][3] when the President of Italy issued her a pardon ending extradition proceedings against her in February 2017.

Sousa claims to be a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) field officer who used diplomatic cover.[4][5][6][7][8] In 2009 she sued the U.S. State Department, claiming that the State Department should grant her diplomatic immunity for her role in the kidnapping, irrespective of the fact that diplomatic immunity is granted by the host country.[9] The State Department denied that she had diplomatic immunity, and she lost her lawsuit against the State Department. In a July 27, 2013 interview with the McClatchy News Service, she said that she worked undercover for the CIA when the kidnapping took place.[10] She maintains she played no role in the kidnapping, was unaware of the plans, and was on a ski trip when it took place.[11]


Sousa was born in Goa, India and grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai). She is a citizen of Portugal and the United States, having obtained her U.S. citizenship in 1985.[4]

De Sousa's role in the kidnapping and torture of Abu Omar[edit]

The underlying case is called the "Imam Rapito affair", which involves "kidnapping charges in Italy for the seizure of a suspected terrorist."[12] Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric, was abducted on February 17, 2003, in Milan by the CIA, and transported to the Aviano Air Base, from which he was transferred to Egypt, where he was interrogated (and allegedly tortured).[13][14] (Abu Omar is also known as Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr and Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.) The Italian government originally denied having played any role in the abduction, but Italian prosecutors Armando Spataro and Ferdinand Enrico Pomarici indicted two dozen American and Italian government employees and agents.[15]

Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant in 2006 for De Sousa.[7] They named her publicly in July 2008.[16] She is not alleged to have kidnapped Omar herself, but is said to have "helped make false documents to mislead investigators."[17] She claims an alibi that she was "vacationing at a ski resort nearly 130 miles away in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy."[12]

De Sousa is alleged by the Italian judicial system to be an intelligence officer.[5][12][18] They claim that she is part of a "CIA network",[19] serving under diplomatic cover.[20] She claims to be a diplomat.[5][12] She was registered with the United States Embassy in Rome as "second secretary" but posted in Milan.[21] She was a State Department employee,[17] until she resigned in February 2009.[5]

She was convicted of kidnapping for her role in the Imam rapito affair on November 4, 2009 by an Italian court, after a trial in absentia and a plea of not guilty.[1][22]

She was briefly detained at the Lisbon airport in Portugal on October 5, 2015.[23][24] Her passport was confiscated, and she is awaiting a decision on whether she will be turned over to Italy to serve her six-year sentence.[23][24] In January 2016, she was ordered extradited to Italy, although that order will be appealed.[24] She has disclaimed any involvement in the affair and has been working to clear her name, including writing a memoir about her activities.[24] Her appeal was denied on April 11, 2016.[25]

On April 11, 2016, the Portuguese Supreme Court upheld De Sousa's extradition.[4] According to the New York Times, she will be filing a further appeal to Portugal's Constitutional Court, due to a difference between how Portugal and Italy handle convictions in absentia. According to the New York Times she will argue that if she were extradited she could not count on Italy granting her a re-trial, whereas a right to a re-trial is routinely allowed in Portugal.

On 8 June 2016, the Portuguese Constitutional Court upheld the Supreme Court's decision. Sabrina de Sousa was due to be extradited to Italy at that time.

De Sousa's lawsuit[edit]

De Sousa sued for a declaration that she is a diplomat with immunity from prosecution:

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday (May 2009) in federal court in Washington, Sabrina De Sousa wants diplomatic immunity and government-funded legal counsel in Italy. She claims she was a foreign service officer working in Milan and was not involved in the 2003 seizure of Muslim cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. But Italian prosecutors say De Sousa, a 53-year-old India native, was a CIA officer[26] working under diplomatic cover and was one of four main U.S. officials responsible for coordinating Omar's capture from a Milan street in broad daylight on February 17, 2003.

— AP story[12]

De Souza tried to appeal her extradition on the grounds that the CIA had documents that would establish she did not play the roles in the kidnapping for she was convicted, but that the documents were unavailable for her to use to defend herself, because they were classified as secrets.[27][28][29]


De Souza eventually lost all her appeals against extradition.[27][28][29][30][31] In an email to the Associated Press De Souza's lawyers wrote that Portuguese authorities took her into custody on February 20, 2017, and that she would be transferred to Italian custody within a few days.

Even though De Sousa exhausted all her appeals in Portugal's Justice system, she will be entitled to appeal her conviction, or request a new trial, once she is extradited to Italy, because she was convicted in absentia, and wasn't formally advised of her trial.[29]

On February 28, 2017, the New York Times reported that, Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy, had commuted De Sousa's sentence, to just three years.[32] They reported that Italian law allowed convicts sentenced to three years or less to serve an alternate sentence, like house arrest, instead of prison time. De Sousa's initial sentence had been for seven years, and had previously been reduced to four years.

After Mattarella's partial commutation of De Sousa's sentence Italian prosecutors revoked their extradition order.[32][33] De Sousa had expressed confidence that, when inaugurated Donald Trump would save her from imprisonment.[34][35][36][37][38] When Mattarella did partially pardon her, there was widespread speculation that Italy was succumbing to diplomatic pressure from the newly inaugurated President.[39][40][36][41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rachael Donadio (2009-11-04). "Italy Convicts 23 Americans for C.I.A. Renditions". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2016-01-15. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  2. ^ Pete Hoekstra (2016-06-17). "Obama administration's absurd priorities". Fox News. Retrieved 2016-06-20. Portugal will soon extradite former CIA officer Sabrina de Sousa to Italy for incarceration. Her crime? She executed the orders of her CIA superiors, who were acting under the direction of the administration with oversight from Congress.
  3. ^ Kirchgaessner, Stephanie (8 June 2016). "Ex-CIA officer faces extradition to Italy after final appeal rejected". The Guardian (UK).
  4. ^ a b c Rachel Minder (2016-04-12). "Portuguese Supreme Court Upholds Extradition of C.I.A. Agent to Italy". New York Times. p. A8. Archived from the original on 2016-04-12. Retrieved 2016-04-13. Ms. De Sousa, who resigned from the C.I.A. in 2009, was sentenced in absentia in Italy to six years in prison. She has asked the Italian authorities for a pardon.
  5. ^ a b c d Scott Shane (2009-05-14). "Woman in Rendition Case Sues for Immunity". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-09-27. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
  6. ^ "Separated at birth". The Left Coaster. 2006-07-09. Archived from the original on 2016-07-02. Retrieved 2009-05-14. At the same time Jeff Castelli, allegedly together with the diplomat Sabrina De Sousa, reprimanded Lady and ordered him to cut off all relations with D'Ambrosio. Jeff Castelli was then CIA station chief in Rome. Arrest warrants have been issued for Jeff Castelli and Sabrina De Sousa, as well as the agent Ralph Henry Russomando, accused of creating a false dossier to mislead Italian investigators, and Colonel Joseph Romano, then head of the Aviano Air Force Base and now at the Pentagon.
  7. ^ a b "Via Nazionale 230". European Tribune. 2006-07-07. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  8. ^ Kevin Gosztola (2013-07-27). "Former CIA Officer & Whistleblower Sabrina De Sousa & the 'Proper Channels' Myth". Firedoglake. Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-07-29. A major news story by Jonathan Landay of McClatchy features the first public comments from Sabrina De Sousa, a former CIA officer who has revealed details around the kidnapping of radical Islamist cleric Abu Omar in Italy in 2003.
  9. ^ Ian Shapira (2012-07-12). "Kidnapping unravels a spy's career". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-07-29. At 56, Sabrina De Sousa's life has come to be defined by a landmark criminal case that has been playing out in Italy for much of the past decade, ever since prosecutors began investigating the disappearance of an Egyptian cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar.
  10. ^ Jonathon S. Landay (2013-07-27). "U.S. allowed Italian kidnap prosecution to shield higher-ups, ex-CIA officer says". McClatchy News Service. Archived from the original on 2013-07-29.
  11. ^ Adrian Chen (2013-01-31). "A Discussion with Accused CIA Agent Sabrina De Sousa". Gawker. Archived from the original on 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2013-07-29. However, she is unequivocal in asserting that she had no connection to Abu Omar's kidnapping. De Sousa didn't know Omar was being kidnapped that day in 2003, she says, and was on a ski trip in the Alps with her kids at the moment of the kidnapping. "This is a bit of scapegoatery" for an embarrassing and illegal CIA operation gone wrong, De Sousa says.
  12. ^ a b c d e Nedra Pickler, "Lawsuit seeks diplomatic immunity in Italian case," Associated Press, slightly different versions found at Kansas City Star website, AOL New Zealand website, CBS website, and The Herald online[permanent dead link]. Accessed May 14, 2009.
  13. ^ "Foto della Cia svela il sequestro dell'imam" [Photo CIA reveals the kidnapping of Imam] (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 2005-11-12. Archived from the original on 2005-11-24. Retrieved 2017-02-28. Da Aviano, l'imam è stato trasferito con un aereo speciale nella base americana di Ramstein in Germania e da qui ha proseguito, con un altro jet, verso il Cairo, dove è stato buttato in carcere speciale. Qui ha subito pesanti interrogatori, segnati da violenze e pressioni psicologiche e fisiche. Quasi un anno dopo gli egiziani hanno rimesso in libertà Abu Omar che ha raccontato alla famiglia quanto gli era successo. Rivelazioni che lo hanno riportato in galera — dove si trova tuttora — ma che hanno segnato la prima svolta nell'indagine in Italia.
  14. ^ "I pm di Milano: arrestate gli agenti della Cia" [The Milan pm: Stop the agents of the CIA] (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 2005-06-24. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  15. ^ "Rapimento Abu Omar, a giudizio l'ex capo del Sismi Nicolò Pollari", La Repubblica, 16 febbraio 2007.
  16. ^ Jeff Stein, "Italian Police Name CIA Contacts in Kidnap Trial," Congressional Quarterly Politics, July 10, 2008, found at CQ Politics website Archived 2008-12-01 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed May 14, 2009.
  17. ^ a b Indy Bay website. Accessed May 14, 2009.
  18. ^ "DE SOUSA SABRINA". NameBase. Retrieved 2009-05-14.[dead link]
  19. ^ State website, citing Information from the prosecutor's office (in Italian). Accessed May 14, 2009.
  20. ^ Security Law Brief, May 14, 2009, found at Security Law Brief website[permanent dead link]. Accessed May 14, 2009.
  21. ^ Stephen Grey, Ghost plane: the true story of the CIA torture program, p. 349, fn. 45, (Macmillan, 2006) ISBN 978-0-312-36023-8 found at Google Books. Accessed May 14, 2009.
  22. ^ "Sabrina De Sousa, Ex-CIA Whistleblower, Blames Bush For Defamation (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. 2013-07-31.
  23. ^ a b "Former CIA operative detained in Portugal over kidnapping of cleric". The Guardian. October 8, 2015. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Supremo rejeita recurso contra extradição de ex-agente da CIA detida em Lisboa".
  26. ^ "Mumbai-born to Mata Hari: Sabrina de Sousa's story".
  27. ^ a b Crista Corbin (2017-02-20). "Extradition under way for ex-CIA officer, despite appeals to Trump administration for help". Fox News. Retrieved 2017-02-20. De Sousa told Fox News she was detained by the Portuguese judiciary police on Monday -- despite urgent appeals to the Trump administration to intervene. She said Portuguese officials were working with the Italian government to select the prison where she will be incarcerated.
  28. ^ a b Patricia Kowsmann, Manuela Mesco (2017-02-21). "Ex-CIA Agent Loses Appeal Against Extradition in Kidnapping Case: Sabrina de Sousa faces a four-year jail sentence in Italy". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2017-02-20. A former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency officer living in Portugal has lost her final appeal there to avoid going to prison in Italy for her part in a U.S. program that involved kidnapping suspected terrorists and flying them to other countries for interrogation.
  29. ^ a b c "Portugal to extradite ex-CIA agent who asked Trump for help". Lisbon: New York Post. 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-20. Police took Sabrina de Sousa to a Portuguese jail where she is awaiting extradition, her Portuguese lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, told the Associated Press. He said in an email that she was detained Monday and is expected to be sent to Italy within days.
  30. ^ Barry Hatton (2017-02-21). "Lawyer: Portugal to extradite ex-CIA agent to Italian jail". Lisbon: Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 2017-02-22. Retrieved 2017-02-20. A Portuguese court has ordered police to extradite a former CIA agent to Italy, where she is due to serve a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of involvement in a U.S. program that kidnapped suspects for interrogation, her lawyer said Tuesday.
  31. ^ "Ex-agent to be extradited within days (2): Sabrina De Sousa convicted in Milan over Omar Nasr case". Lisbon: ANSA. 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-20. De Sousa looks set to be the first to actually go to jail over the case - the other 22 have not returned to Italy and three have been given presidential pardons. The Nasr case was the world's first judicial examination of the controversial practice of extraordinary rendition in the so-called war on terror.
  32. ^ a b Elisabetta Povoledofeb (2017-02-28). "Italy Reduces Sentence for Ex-C.I.A. Officer Sought in Rendition Case". Rome: New York Times. p. A3. Retrieved 2017-02-28. Ms. de Sousa was initially sentenced to seven years for kidnapping; that was later reduced to four years, and President Sergio Mattarella reduced it on Tuesday to three. Under Italian law, sentences of three years or less are eligible for alternatives to imprisonment.
  33. ^ Andrei Khalip (2017-03-01). "Extradition of ex-CIA spy canceled, to be released in Portugal". Lisbon: Metro News US. Archived from the original on 2017-03-02. Retrieved 2017-03-01. A former CIA officer, convicted for involvement in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Italy, will not be deported from Portugal and will be released, her lawyer said on Wednesday.
  34. ^ "Ex-agente da CIA Sabrina de Sousa, detida em Lisboa, "otimista" sobre possível intervenção de Trump" [Former CIA agent Sabrina de Sousa, arrested in Lisbon, "optimistic" about possible intervention by Trump] (in Italian). Sapo 24. 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2017-02-28. "O presidente [Donald Trump] e esta Administração pode fazer parar este precedente, para que diplomatas, militares e agentes dos serviços de informações norte-americanos não sejam condenados por tribunais estrangeiros", disse Sabrina de Sousa numa entrevista à Fox News e que se encontra disponível na página da estação de televisão desde quarta-feira.
  35. ^ "Ex-agente da CIA em Lisboa tenta perdão de Trump" (in Portuguese). Expresso (Portugal). 2017-02-22. Retrieved 2017-02-28. A Fox News é provavelmente o único canal de notícias a que o atual presidente dos Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, dá algum crédito, depois de há um mês ter descrito os jornalistas, no seu todo, como "os seres humanos mais desonestos à face da Terra". Ainda durante o último fim de semana, a propósito de uma referência que tinha feito a um atentado na Suécia que nunca aconteceu, e sendo conhecida a sua aversão à prática da leitura, Trump tinha-se desculpado com o seu canal preferido: "Vi na Fox News".
  36. ^ a b Joe Tacopino (2017-01-17). "Ex-CIA agent 'optimistic' Trump will save her from extradition". New York Post. Retrieved 2017-02-28. When asked during an interview on "Fox News Monday" about Trump possibly protecting her from a four-year sentence, she said, "I'm a little bit optimistic ... One of the things that the president-elect can do is to prevent US intelligence officers from being convicted by foreign courts."
  37. ^ Nikki Schwab (2017-02-22). "Trump administration is 'deeply disappointed' about ex-CIA agent being extradited to Italy after being convicted in her absence for part in 'extraordinary rendition' of terror suspects". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  38. ^ "Washington 'deeply disappointed' over imminent extradition of former CIA agent to Italy". Malaysia Outlook. 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2017-02-28. The United States State Department said Wednesday it was "deeply disappointed" over the imminent extradition of a former CIA agent from Portugal to Italy for her alleged role in a counterterrorism operation authorised by the US government some 14 years ago.
  39. ^ Stephanie Kirchgaessner (2017-02-28). "Ex-CIA officer pardoned for role in 2003 kidnapping of terrorism suspect". Rome: The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-02-28. The news will likely be met with relief by the US and Italian governments and will mean that the two countries will avoid diplomatic tensions ahead of Donald Trump's planned visit to Italy in May, when the US president attends the G7 meeting of world leaders in Sicily.
  40. ^ Elizabeth Llorente (2017-01-17). "Ex-CIA officer braces for extradition from Portugal to Italy, says she's 'scapegoat'". Fox News. Retrieved 2017-02-28. I hope that Trump will recognize the inherent unfairness of this situation," he said, adding that Italy and the United States could have handled the case of De Sousa and others convicted in a more diplomatic fashion. "There are ways that allies and friends work it out.
  41. ^ Suhasini Krishnan (2017-02-24). "US Steps In to Stop Indian-Origin CIA Spy's Extradition to Italy". The Quint. Retrieved 2017-02-28. The Donald Trump-led White House's involvement in the case will be closely watched, in light of Trump's open dismissal of the US' allies in Europe.