Indian-American sues for immunity in CIA rendition case

May 16th, 2009 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 14 (IANS) An India-born former US government employee, accused by Italy of participating in a CIA-organised kidnapping of a militant Egyptian-born cleric, has sought diplomatic immunity to quash any prosecution, according to a media report.

Italian officials charge that Sabrina De Sousa, 53, was one of 26 US agents who grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, in Milan in February 2003 and flew him to Egypt, where he says he was imprisoned and tortured, the Washington Post reported. Nasr has since been released.

De Sousa, a naturalised US citizen who was born in India, says she was ordered not to travel abroad because of the fear of arrest, preventing her from visiting her mother in India and siblings in Europe. De Sousa quit her job in the federal government in February.

Italian officials charge that the disappearance of Nasr was part of a CIA rendition programme in which the agency abducted suspected terrorists and took them to third countries for interrogation.

De Sousa worked as a consular official in Milan and said in court filings that she was on a vacation at the time of Nasr’s disappearance.

“Even if the allegations were true, though, her actions clearly fell within the scope of her official duties and thereby entitle her to diplomatic/consular immunity,” according to her lawsuit suing the State Department to invoke diplomatic immunity.

Asked whether she had been a CIA employee, her attorney, Mark Zaid, said De Sousa had been “a federal employee working for the State Department,” the Post said.

The CIA declined to comment. The daily cited a spokesman for the State Department as saying he could confirm her stated employment record but would not comment further about her because the case is in litigation.

De Sousa told the Post in a phone interview that she repeatedly asked government agencies why diplomatic immunity had not been invoked and was forced to sue because she did not get a satisfactory response.

“This is a political thing that needs to go away once and for all,” she said of the prosecution.

De Sousa said the Italian prosecution raises important concerns for government employees overseas. “If you’re going to fight this war on terror, are you going to protect your people?” she asked.

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