The operation is thought to
have been led by an agent working in the US embassy in Rome
Prosecutors in Italy have issued three more arrest warrants over the
kidnapping of an Egyptian imam based in Milan by a team of CIA agents. Among
those wanted in connection with the operation, which led to the man - Abu Omar
- being tortured in Egypt, is a 38-year-old female CIA agent who was working
as a diplomat at the US embassy in Rome and is said to have led the operation.
Betnie Medero, who was second secretary at the embassy until a few months ago,
is one of 22 CIA agents now wanted by Italian police over the kidnapping, which
happened in a street in Milan on 17 February, 2003. Medero arrived in Italy
in August 2001 with diplomatic accreditation and oversaw the operation, Italian
newspaper Corriere della Sera reports. On Thursday police entered her house
in Rome but found it deserted. She is believed to currently be at the US embassy
in Mexico City.
Omar was kidnapped in a clandestine 'extraordinary rendition' operation, a
practice used regularly by the US, where they capture and deport foreign terror
suspects without any trial to countries where they could be tortured.
Omar had already been under surveillance by Italian police, suspected of having
links with terrorist groups and recruiting young people to be used as martyrs
in Iraq. According to Italian and American intelligence he also fought in Afghanistan
Milan investigating magistrates say Omar was first taken to the American Aviano
air base in northern Italy and transferred to a military base at Ramstein in
Germany, from where he was then flown to Egypt in a private plane hired by the
CIA. Once there he was held at the high security Tora prison for more than a
year and was released in April 2004 after collapsing and suffering partial paralysis
as a result of the torture he was subjected to, Once free and despite being
warned not to, Omar recounted his experience to a fellow Egyptian imam in Milan,
in a phone call tapped by the Italian police. He said he had been beaten to
the point where he could hardly move his legs and had been tortured with electric
cables. Then nothing more was heard of him until new information emerged in
June this year that he is back in Tora prison.
The two other CIA agents now wanted by Italian police have been named as 55-year-old
Vincent Faldo and 57-year-old Thomas Harbison. Both are US citizens whose American
passports have turned out to be authentic. Many of the other agents used false
identities, created by the CIA for such operations. Despite the 22 arrest warrants,
none of those involved have been arrested and they are all thought to have left
Italian investigators working on the case have found images and documents they
describe as "decisive", including a photograph of Abu Omar on the
street where he was kidnapped, taken 33 days before he was taken. It was found
in the computer of Bob Lady, the former head of the CIA station in Milan. He
has been wanted since June 24 this year when he fled Italy. His wife deleted
all the files on his computer, Corriere della Sera reports, but police have
managed to rebuild the hard drive, and found evidence that he had run searches
for the shortest route from the Milan street where Omar was kidnapped to Aviano.
A list of the luxurious hotels in Milan the agents accused of being involved
in the kidnapping stayed in was also found in the rubbish bin in his garage.
Evidence has also been uncovered that Lady was in Cairo during the two weeks
when Omar is said to have suffered the most violent interrogation. Investigators
tracked down two airplane tickets showing that he flew to Cairo from Zurich
on 24 February 2003, and returned to Italy on 7 March.
While the Bush administration has publically defended the extraordinary rendition
practice, it has always denied complicity in any torture the suspect may later
have suffered in the country he was sent to. The Italian government and intelligence
services say they were never informed of the kidnap operation and did not authorise