Italy Does What Obama Won't: Convicts Torturers

By Dennis Loo 


In a breaking story that only CNN in US media appears to be carrying at this point, but numerous other foreign news services such as BBC are carrying: an Italian court has found twenty-two Americans guilty of kidnapping and torture of a cleric. 

CBC News today, November 4, 2009, is running the AP wire service report, which reads in part:

“State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said …the Obama administration was ‘disappointed about the verdicts.’

 

“Twenty-two of the convicted Americans were immediately sentenced to five years in jail at the end of the nearly three-year trial. The other convicted American, former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady, was given the stiffest sentence, eight years in prison.

 

“The Americans' lawyers, most of whom have had no contact with their clients, entered pleas of not guilty on their behalf and argued for their acquittals.

“The Americans were accused of kidnapping Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, on Feb. 17, 2003, from a street in Milan, then transferring him by van to the Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, where he was put on a plane and taken to Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany. He was then moved to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. He has since been released but has not been permitted to leave Egypt to attend the trial….

“The Americans' defence team has employed various arguments throughout the trial to justify their clients' actions: namely, that they were following orders, that they should be cleared because of diplomatic immunity and that extraordinary renditions were not illegal under the policies adopted by former U.S. president George W. Bush to combat terrorism.”

Is it too much to ask that Obama, who campaigned on a platform that he would end torture and that he would reverse the unconstitutional practices of Bush, should express relief that CIA officials and American diplomats guilty of kidnapping and torture have been found guilty for acts that Obama said he is against?

Apparently. 

Instead, of course, of relief at torturers being held to account, Obama is “disappointed about the verdicts.”

Who is more disappointed here, those who believed that Obama would right grievous wrongs, or Obama, who has been arguing since taking office against holding Bush officials accountable for their monstrous and illegal acts?

Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady, who was given the harshest sentence of eight years in prison, was quoted in the Il Giornale newspaper in June 2009 as saying: "I am not guilty. I am only responsible for following an order I received from my superiors. It was not a criminal act. It was a state affair."

Does the CIA not train their personnel in what the Nuremberg Verdicts said, that following orders, the weak defense raised by Nazi war criminals, is no excuse?

As for the other two arguments raised by the Americans’ defense lawyers:

Does anyone here seriously think that diplomatic immunity should protect you from being prosecuted for crimes against humanity?

And as for the argument that extraordinary rendition was not illegal under Bush – again, that’s no argument. The fact that a government declared it their policy to rendition people in order to be tortured in places such as Egypt where torture is routine and well-known, doesn’t override the fact that kidnapping people for purposes of torture is still illegal and immoral. Moreover, Obama is undoubtedly “disappointed” in this verdict because it undercuts his public and continued use of rendition.

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.