Ex-CIA Chief Wanted for Rendition of Muslim Cleric Detained in Panama

The arrest follows years after 23 agents were convicted in the first-of-its-kind trial of the CIA practice of rendition

Former CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady was arrested Thursday in Panama, after surfacing in the Central American country years after being convicted by an Italian court for the abduction of a Muslim cleric in the first-of-its-kind ruling against the CIA practice of extraordinary rendition.

In 2009, Lady was convicted along with 22 other Americans for the abduction of Egyptian imam Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar. At the time, the Americans were all tried in absentia after the United States refused to extradite them.

Omar--a resident of Italy at the time--was grabbed off the street in Milan in 2003 and secretly flown to Egypt, where he says he was tortured and held until 2007 without charge.

Last fall, an Italian appeals court upheld the conviction. Former Milan station chief Lady was sentenced to nine years in prison and the other 22 former CIA agents were sentenced to five years each.

"I worked in intelligence for 25 years and almost no activity I did in those 25 years was legal in the country where it happened," Lady toldGQ Magazine in 2007. "When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal. It's a life of illegality."

Reporting on his capture, APwrites:

The [Italian] ministry said it didn't immediately have details on when or where in the Central American country Lady was detained. Asked if Italy was seeking Lady's extradition, the ministry said Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri was away on a visit in Lithuania and couldn't immediately say if such a request had been initiated.

The previous Italian government had said that extradition could only be sought for Lady, since it can only be requested for people who have been sentenced to more than four years in prison. A 2006 amnesty in Italy shaves three years off all sentences meted out by Italian courts, meaning if Lady is brought back to Italy, he would face six years in prison.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.