Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Rendition on trial

By Jonathan Miller

Updated on 08 June 2007

Accused of carrying out one of the most controversial planks of America's war on terror: 26 US citizens, believed to be CIA agents - have gone on trial in Milan.

They are charged with kidnapping Muslim terror suspect Abu Omar in the city in 2003 - then flying him to Egypt where he says he was tortured.

None of the Americans turned up in court as the trial began in a court lined with empty cages. One Italian agent who was also charged was present - saying he had nothing to hide.

It is the story of a truly extraordinary extraordinary rendition: the kidnap, in broad daylight, from the streets of a European city, of a Muslim man, legally resident in Italy.

The secret US policy of rendition has itself gone on trial today. It was on a Milan street from which the imam of a nearby mosque was violently snatched in February 2003.

The imam was Abu Omar, a suspected Jihadi veteran fighter, who was already under close Italian police surveillance; intelligence suggesting he was actively recruiting for terrorist attacks abroad.

As he walked to his mosque one day, he was bundled into a white van. He was blindfolded, he claims, bound hand and foot.

'It felt like I was dying'
Abu Omar

CIA accused

He said: "They pushed me down onto the floor of the van. There was blood everywhere, on my hands, my knees.

"As we drove along, I started to choke. My mouth was foaming, it felt like I was dying."

He was driven from Milan's northern suburbs to Aviano airbase, near Venice, and put aboard a luxury jet - now shackled and wrapped in masking tape.

"No-one said a word to me, I didn't know what was going on, I couldn't hear anything, except just after the plane took off, they started playing classical music."

Flown by CIA airlines first to a US base in Germany, Abu Omar was then put on another plane - this time to his native Egypt, which he'd fled 14 years earlier, accused of belonging to a group of radical Islamists.

"As I got off the plane, I heard a voice I hoped I'd never hear. I heard someone saying: 'move!' - in an Egyptian accent. That's when I knew - I was back in Egypt."

Abu Omar claims he was tortured in an Egyptian jail - hung upside down, to be precise, with electric shocks administered to his genitals.

The government is concerned that a trial might embarrass Italy's intelligence community over the handling of a highly secret operation by publicly airing details about the US programme of extraordinary rendition.

The programme moves terrorism suspects from country to country without public legal proceedings, proceedings which threaten to expose those secrets and the complicity of a European ally.

The judge adjourned proceedings until June 18 to decide on a defence request to suspend the trial.

Send this article by email

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest Europe news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Most watched


Find out which reports and videos are getting people clicking online.

How to tweet

How and why to follow the Channel 4 News family on Twitter.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.