Wednesday, a court in Italy announced guilty verdicts and jail terms for nearly two dozen CIA agents and an Air Force Colonel tried in absentia in connection with the 2003 arrest and rendition of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar to his terrorist friends. The guilty verdict both threatens American servicemen and ensures the judge’s invitation to fashionable Italian cocktail parties for life.
The “victim” at the center of the controversy, Abu Omar, is a member of al-Jemaah Islamiya organization (JI), an Egyptian terror group responsible for, among other things, the assassination of Anwar Sadat and the 1997 massacre of 59 dangerously non-Islamic tourists in Luxor, Egypt — including a five year old British boy who presented an imminent threat to their dreams of world domination.
The organization is allied with Al-Qaeda and is believed to still be actively plotting attacks against the Egyptian government and westerners, and also anyone who just happens to be within range when they start spraying bullets at their perceived enemies — like the four Japanese couples on honeymoons that they killed in the Luxor attack.
The incident that the trial results from occurred in February 2003, when CIA agents, working with Italian intelligence and secret service agents, arrested Abu Omar on the streets of Milan — where he had been hiding out in plain sight on a permanent vacation since he fled Egypt years earlier and sought asylum in Italy as part of an oppressed minority group: fanatical Imams who want to take over their homelands. The group is unfairly persecuted in Egypt because of the whole Sadat “misunderstanding” and their insistence on overthrowing the Egyptian government — oh, and also the massacre of dozens of tourists thing.
After Abu Omar was detained by the agents, he was smuggled out of Italy in secret (but with the assistance and approval of the Italian central government) and sent back to Egypt, allegedly a violation of his human rights. Sending Egyptians to Egypt is a clear violation of human rights, since no one should have to live in Egypt, least of all Egyptians. Western liberals may claim to believe in multiculturalism and the value of all traditions, beliefs and systems, but this love of diversity does not extend to any criminal justice system that doesn’t include cable TV, down comforters and the Martin Luther King holiday off for inmates.
Once in Egyptian custody, Abu Omar was treated far less kindly by his own countrymen than he was by the Italian Asylum system. In short, he was treated like anyone in an Egyptian police interrogation might be treated, including you if ever, say, get caught with five kilos of hash strapped to your body at the Cairo airport a la Midnight Express — which took place in Turkey of course, but you get the idea.
Abu Omar began to get special treatment, however, when someone figured out that he could be turned into an embarrassment to the United States.
The story was leaked, Abu Omar was allowed to contact his wife (and thus the Italian press), and our fabulous “ally” Egypt (recipient of $1.7 billion in foreign aid) released Abu Omar to go on a victory tour of the world. So much for the idea that he would be persecuted on his return to Egypt.
It was clear soon after the case became public that the entire peration had been conducted with the assistance and permission of the Italian government. However, an anti-American prosecutor in Italy, Armando Spatari, egged on by an adoring crowd of onlookers in the press, decided to use the debacle to pursue his dream of indicting Americans connected to the so-called “so-called War on Terror.” Numerous CIA agents and military personnel, along with a token number of Italian officials were charged with kidnapping poor Abu Omar and sending him home.
Successive Italian central governments, both left wing and right wing, asked Spatari to halt the prosecution on the grounds that the Americans were acting with the knowledge, permission and direct assistance of Italian intelligence services. But Spatari refused on the flimsy grounds that he was not allowed to look at reams of classified documents he wanted released into the public record.
Since the local courts were not able to compel the American government to extradite the accused Americans, they were tried in absentia with court appointed lawyers in a show trial for media consumption. In a remarkable coincidence, the trial ended with every American found guilty and all but two Italians found either not guilty or ineligible for prosecution. So the high ranking Italians that gave permission for the operation — the only people the court had any real cause to punish — were set free, while numerous American CIA agents and others were sentenced to as much as eight years in prison. Several of the high ranking Americans had their sentences tossed by the judge, Oscar Magi, on diplomatic immunity or other technical grounds, but all the rank-and-file agents, as well as an Air Force officer, had their convictions left in place and were given five year prison terms. The judge also ordered the convicted agents to pay Abu Omar and his wife 1.5 million euros ($2.2 million) in damages.
So now American CIA agents, working under orders, in a “friendly” country with the permission and material assistance of that nation’s government, have to worry about being arrested and imprisoned any time they leave the U.S. With Eric Holder as our Attorney General, they may even need to worry about being arrested while still in the U.S.
This injustice is part of a growing trend of local prosecutors (including some in Spain, as well this case in Italy, and the many murmurs of the “International Criminal Court”) believing that they can prosecute anyone they find politically unpalatable anywhere in the world, regardless of jurisdiction, treaty, law, permission, policy or lapse of time.
The question now is “How far will the U.S. let this trend go?” Will we allow precedents to be established and legitimacy to be granted, little by little, to the idea that foreign political witch hunts can prosecute American military personnel at will in an attempt to shape international policy and history and to satisfy their own sad little needs?
Such prosecutors and judges do what they do because there is no downside for them. They become media darlings and leftist icons, win or lose, while pursuing their personal political vendettas at taxpayer expense over the course of years or even decades.
That needs to change, and the way to change it is to turn their own tactic back on them. Local prosecutors in the U.S. need to start indicting the judges and prosecutors involved in any attempt to arrest, try or imprison American soldiers and agents illegally. When Judge Righteous or Chief Prosecutor Vengeance can no longer take his family to Disney Land or Manhattan because he risks arrest and extradition to face attempted kidnapping charges in Alabama or Texas, suddenly everyone will remember the limits of local courts and political prosecutions again.
Those who want to give local courts a global power should remember that on this globe, there are a lot of locations they might not want to have a far reaching power over them: we must prosecute the prosecutors of American servicemen.