Options narrow for ex-CIA agent's fight against extradition

AP News
Posted: Apr 26, 2016 12:47 PM

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A former CIA operative has one last chance to avoid being extradited from Portugal to Italy to serve a prison sentence for her part in the U.S. extraordinary renditions program, Portuguese court officials said Tuesday.

A judge at Portugal's Constitutional Court last week ruled that Sabrina de Sousa had no constitutional grounds to reverse earlier decisions by a lower court and the Supreme Court to send her back to Italy.

De Sousa now has 10 days after being officially notified of that decision to ask the Constitutional Court to appoint a three-judge panel to review its decision, officials at the Constitutional Court and the lower court told The Associated Press. The officials didn't know on what date she was notified.

De Sousa was among 26 Americans convicted in absentia for the 2003 kidnapping in Milan of terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. She was arrested last October at Lisbon Airport on a European warrant.

De Sousa's Portuguese lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, wasn't immediately available and didn't reply to an email seeking comment.

De Sousa, who has insisted she wasn't involved in the abduction, said she is uncertain about the next steps in her case but didn't elaborate. "At this point I am hoping someone in the Portuguese government informs me in detail about the extradition process in Portugal," she wrote in a brief email to the AP. She said she may comment further at a later date, when she has "more news."

Her Italian lawyer, meanwhile, has previously said he is hopeful of obtaining clemency from Italy's head of state. President Sergio Mattarella has granted clemency to other defendants convicted in the case.

The extraordinary rendition program was part of the anti-terrorism strategy of the U.S. administration following the Sept. 11 attacks. President Barack Obama ended the program years later.

If De Sousa won the Constitutional Court review, the case would go back to the lower court, according to Luis Vaz das Neves, president of the lower court. Otherwise, the lower court's January ruling stands.

The lower court granted Italy its extradition request on two conditions, Vaz das Neves said. Firstly, if De Sousa goes to Italy and accepts her sentence, which Italian authorities say in the arrest warrant is four years, she must be allowed to serve it in Portugal. Or if she is convicted in a new trial in Italy, she must also be allowed to serve it in Portugal.

De Sousa's lawyer in Italy, Dario Bolognesi, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

De Sousa, who was born in India and holds both U.S. and Portuguese passports, was on her way to visit her elderly mother in India with a roundtrip ticket when she was detained.


Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.