The former CIA station chief in Milan - wanted by Italian authorities on a kidnapping conviction - is on his way back to the US, according to the State Department. The CIA officer had been arrested in Panama.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Friday that Robert Seldon Lady was on his way back to the United States, after being detained by authorities in Panama upon request by Italy.
“It's my understanding that he is in fact either en route or back in the United States,” Harf said. She did not give details as to whether Washington would cooperate with Italy in the case. The US government as rule does not extradite CIA officers.
In 2009, an Italian court convicted Lady and 22 other Americans in absentia for the kidnapping of an Egyptian imam, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. Also known as Abu Omar, Nasr was a radical Islamist and suspected terrorist. In a joint operation with Italian intelligence in 2003, the CIA snatched Nasr from a Milan street and sent him to Egypt. Nasr claims he was subsequently tortured in Egypt.
The 23 convictions represent the first time that CIA agents have been successfully prosecuted for the “extraordinary rendition” program. During the height of the so-called War on Terror, terrorism suspects were captured by the US and sent to countries with weak human rights records, where they were allegedly often tortured.
Last year, Italy's high court upheld the 2009 conviction of 59-year-old Lady. His sentence had been raised from eight years to nine years during the appeals process. But a 2006 amnesty law in Italy shaves three years off all sentences, meaning that Lady would only serve six years if he was extradited to Italy.
The Italian Justice Ministry had announced on Thursday that Lady had been detained in Panama, while trying to cross the border into Costa Rica. Italy and Panama have no extradition treaty. It's unclear how Lady managed to make his way back to the US.