Ex-CIA agent convicted in Italy fights to stay in Portugal

AP News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2015 9:18 AM
Ex-CIA agent convicted in Italy fights to stay in Portugal

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A former CIA operative convicted of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric in Milan as part of the U.S. extraordinary renditions program is fighting against being sent to Italy to serve the six-year sentence she received in absentia there, a Portuguese court official said Friday.

Sabrina De Sousa, who has both U.S. and Portuguese citizenship, was arrested at Lisbon's international airport Monday on a European arrest warrant issued by Italy.

She told a judge on Tuesday she wants to stay in Portugal, where she has been living recently, Luis Vaz das Neves, president of the Lisbon court handling her case, told The Associated Press on Friday.

De Sousa also "expressed a wish to serve her sentence, if she has to serve it, here in Portugal," he said.

De Sousa was among 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents, convicted in absentia in the kidnapping of Milan cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003.

De Sousa claims she was never notified of the Italian court decision, according to Vaz das Neves.

De Sousa handed both her passports over to the Lisbon court, which gave her 10 days to provide written arguments against her extradition. In the meantime, she must report weekly to a police station.

The court believed she was not a flight risk, Vaz das Neves said, since she had a return plane ticket to Lisbon, is a Portuguese citizen and says she wants to settle here.

De Sousa, who operated for the CIA under diplomatic cover, was initially acquitted due to diplomatic immunity but was found guilty by Italy's highest court in 2014.

The Indian-born De Sousa came out against the U.S. decision not to allow the American defendants to get their own lawyers near the end of the first trial, eventually winning permission to have her own counsel. De Sousa said she was concerned about losing her freedom to visit family in India.

Vaz das Neves said De Sousa was trying to fly to Goa, a one-time Portuguese territory in India, to see her 89-year-old mother when she was arrested. She was due back in Portugal on Oct. 27.

Asked why De Sousa was not caught earlier, Vaz das Neves said Portuguese authorities were aware of the warrant but police had no record of her residing here.

De Sousa's lawyer in Lisbon said neither he nor his client would give interviews until the extradition case was resolved.

But De Sousa acknowledged in published comments that she had endangered her freedom by trying to travel across a border.

"I knew I was taking a risk, but at some point I want to live (in Portugal) as a free citizen, and this needs to be resolved," De Sousa told Vice News in an article Thursday.

After De Sousa presents her arguments, the court has 10 days to respond. The Portuguese Constitution prohibits the extradition of nationals, but Vaz das Neves said the court will also have to take European Union laws into account.